Lately at our Upstream gatherings I’ve been experimenting a bit with some different ideas.

I usually like experimentation after the event, but find it stressful before and during it, wondering if it will work out!

Last week’s ‘experiment’ was a relational map, tracking the connections we have made since coming to Brighton.

The idea was simple. We write the names of the 6 team families on the paper and then around them they list the people they know and who are primarily in their worlds. From there we drew a black line to indicate an acquaintance, a brown to show friends and a red to show close friends. It showed us the huge number of people we have got to know in the last two years, and also caused us to think about the nature of those relationships. We obviously can’t be ‘friends’ with everyone, but it did cause us to reflect on where relationships were at and where they are headed.

It also showed where we are connecting with one another’s friends and developing a stronger community network.

Then tonight it was time to try something new again…

As a long term Baptist ,’Lent’ refers to what I do with books, nothing else. But this year I have been feeling like God wants us to have a look at this whole deal and engage with it – to pick up more on the Christian year. It really is a new experience for almost all of us to make some of these traditions a part of our experience.

But there’s no time like the present to get started…

So with google as my guide I began reading up on Lent. Yep – I didn’t know much at all!

As we met tonight and I suggested we take the Lent period seriously I was a bit nervous because I was trying to introduce people to something I knew precious little about. Here I am trying to explain Lent and am only half a step ahead of everyone else…

However with the help of google and Andrew Dowsett we made tonight our Ash Wednesday and practiced the marking of the cross in ash on the forehead as we read scripture and reflected on some appropriate music.

I think it was a good start to the Lent period and we have agreed together to make this a signifcant time as we look to embrace the focus of Lent and the call to repentance and humilty. We have agreed as a team to choose something to abstain from and we will be seeking to experience the Lent aspect of Easter rather than just the Friday and Sunday.

Yes, it did feel a little odd marking a cross in ash on someone’s forehead, (doesn’t everything when it is new) but I imagine that for many of us it was significant to be reminded of our humanity and impermanence in a tangible way, as well as to be pointed to the cross and the hope for our brokenness and frailty.

I actually get the impression we have lots to learn here as we walk a new path again.

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