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Reverend Reflections

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In the sixth of a series of articles, Revd James Gilder of Wanstead Parish explores the pathway of Easter, reflects on the century so far and urges us not to give up hope

Easter is almost as early as it can be this year, and it’s taken us all rather by surprise. I write this on Ash Wednesday, the first day of Lent and it feels as though we’ve only just left Christmas behind! Nonetheless, the snowdrops have been out for quite a while and the daffodils are starting to poke their heads up in between the leaves, the grass and the never-ending stream of litter brought into my front garden by the Wanstead foxes. 

It’s amazing to think almost a quarter of this century has now gone by. It doesn’t seem so long ago that we all got excited (or not) about the Millennium Dome, and pictures were beamed around the world of the Queen looking rather nonplussed at having to hold hands with Cherie Blair whilst singing Auld Lang Syne as the clock struck midnight.  

At that time, it seemed like the biggest worry for the world was the millennium bug, which – you may recall – turned out to be a storm in a teacup. (For those under the age of 25, the millennium bug referred to how many computer programs used to represent the year with only two digits, making the year 2000 indistinguishable from 1900, and the inability of computers to distinguish dates correctly had the potential to bring down worldwide infrastructures, it was thought).

Yet, not much more than a year later, with the attack on the Twin Towers, it felt rather as though the world had entered a grim new era. Throw in several wars in the Middle East; the 2008 recession from which we never seemed to fully recover; the pandemic and goodness knows what else besides, and it’s clear that the 21st century has not got off to the most auspicious start.

Perhaps it was ever thus; after all, history doesn’t seem to be a mark of linear progress, and whilst we improve at some things, in other areas, it feels like we go backwards. In the Christian calendar, Lent is purposefully a time of scarcity and solemnity. On Ash Wednesday, we say ‘remember thou art dust, and to dust thou shalt return’, whilst marking foreheads with ash. This practice may sound strange, but – whether we have faith or not – remembering that we humans sometimes need to take a rain check on our own species’ self-belief isn’t a bad thing. After all, it tends to be humanity’s hubris that leads us in destructive ways.

By the time you read this, we will be well into Lent and on the path through the darkest hours of Good Friday to the joy of Easter.  This is our annual reminder that, whilst dark days come for us all, and for the world, we can’t ever give up hope – not for ourselves or for others. Let’s not give in to cynicism and not put up with it in our local, national or international life either. The Christian faith believes in happy endings.


To contact Reverend James Gilder, email wansteadparishadmin@uwclub.net