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Welcome to the Place in the Crowd Lent Course. Taking part in this course leads us into a central paradox of living as the Church: we are called to be responsible disciples, stewards, heralds, leaders, agents of growth – and yet God’s ways are never subject to our control. To be a Christian is to sit lightly to outcomes and objectives, whilst exerting our best energies in kingdom service and witness. Rather than produce a course that radiates optimism and exhorts us all to try harder, we have tried to enter into the mystery of the Passion journey and see where points of connection emerge for our own context. Vitally, there needs to be space for the Spirit to nudge, reveal, challenge and transform.
The six sessions follow the journey of Jesus from his public ministry to the cross, using as a lens the crowds who accompany different stages of that journey. The sessions use the Gospel of Matthew, which is the lectionary Gospel for this year. But we begin at the end of Matthew’s Gospel, with the familiar passage from Matthew 28 sometimes called ‘the Great Commission’. We inevitably approach mission and discipleship from a post-resurrection perspective, and that is where we start this Lenten journey. We end by the well-sealed and guarded tomb, waiting for the power of God to break shackles and end death’s reign.
It is not necessary to use the material in Lent, but there will be particular resonances if the journey of the sessions is in step with the season. If your group does not have time to do all the sessions, our advice would be to ensure that sessions 1 and 5 are used, then either Session 2 or 3, and either 4a or 4b.
As a Diocese, we are diverse in many ways, and no one course will be a perfect fit for every context. The material is not intended to be prescriptive, so please adapt any of the activities in order for your group to engage as fully as possible. In the ‘Living it Out’ sections we have tried to include examples of churches and communities making a positive difference in everyday ways from all round the Diocese. The course aims to celebrate what is already happening, to put new heart into God’s people, and to acknowledge that it is God who is ultimately the one who is at work.