Dear friends,

What an encouraging beginning it was to this holy season of Lent, with such a heartening number (52) present in church on Ash Wednesday: this was excellent relative not only to the previous year (+50%), but also to our average Sunday attendance, as well as our attendance aspirations. Please continue as you have started – by putting the Lord in first place in your lives!

(Dependent on when you are reading this,) you may still just be in time to join us for Stations of the Cross and Mass at 9.30am: we will walk the Stations of the Cross at 9.30 every Wednesday until Easter.

The Stations of the Cross are as they sound – stopping-points on an imaginative journey, with Jesus to Calvary. Around the walls of our church are fourteen carved images – like film-stills – each one a moment on this via dolorosa (sorrowful journey), beginning with Jesus’ arrest and appearance before Pontius Pilate, and concluding with his body being laid in the tomb. It is a way for us to make a pilgrimage without leaving our own neighbourhood, walking the same steps as Christ through and beyond Jerusalem, as we follow him in his Passion. Between the stations we sing hymns, and at each station we listen to a meditation, and pray together. If you are available, why not join us; or otherwise walk this journey in church at a time of your own choosing? In this Sunday’s Gospel reading – the story of the Transfiguration – the disciples subsequently ‘among themselves… discussed what “rising from the dead” could mean‘: in doing so, they give us today a model of prayerful contemplation – by means of devotions such as the Stations of the Cross, we should meditate frequently on Our Lord’s suffering, death and resurrection, and so give thanks for our salvation.

As previously explained, each month this year we will be collecting for a different charity: this coming Sunday is really the final opportunity to contribute towards February’s collection for St Luke’s Hospice – please place your donations in the basket at the back of church, and use one of their purple Gift Aid envelopes as appropriate.

St Luke’s is also hosting an information evening for those who might like to be trained as bereavement support volunteers, on Monday 4 March between 6-7pm (at the hospice). No experience is required – only a desire to make a difference to the lives of those who have lost a loved one, and the ability to listen well.

Our monthly charity in March will be WaterAid, which works internationally to provide clean water and decent toilets where these are lacking: this will also be the focus of this year’s Lent Appeal. A strong initial response this past Sunday meant that we ran out of collecting “jars of change” – but there are more now available in church for you to pick up: please then place your Lenten donations into the jar over the coming weeks, and return it to church at Easter.

There is also now a list in church to sponsor Easter lilies: we invite you to write down (clearly!) the names of departed loved ones whom you would like to commemorate, and to place a donation (suggested £5pp) into the basket at the back. A large poster will then accompany our beautiful Easter flowers, detailing the names of all whom we will thereby be remembering.

Fr Matthew Cashmore (sometime Assistant Curate of St Mary’s, and longtime friend of our parish) invites us to “A Welsh Celebration Concert” at 7pm on Saturday, 9 March (at St Anselm, Hayes): tickets (£3/£4) are available to reserve here. The next Stanmore Choral Society concert at St Mary’s will be on Saturday, 23 March (with a programme including excerpts from Haydn’s “Missa Sancti Nicolai”, and Britten’s “St Nicolas” cantata: tickets (£20, inc. refreshments) are available to purchase here. Finally, a flier is attached for a recital of songs for a spring afternoon, on Sunday, 10 March at 4pm, at St Luke, Kew: entry is free, with a retiring collection for Cancer Research UK.

Advance notice of a busy day on Holy Saturday/ Easter Eve, 30 March: at 9.30am we will gather in church for the beautiful “Maria Desolata” devotion, before the “big spring clean” of the building – please join us for as long or as little as you can, to clean and decorate the church for Easter (tea, coffee and hot cross buns on tap); then the great Vigil and First Mass of Easter will be celebrated at 7.30pm – before we move into the Hall for a parish party. Drinks will be provided – but please see Pat (in due course) to arrange to bring a dish of food to share!

My vows to the Lord I will fulfil / before all his people / in the courts of the house of the Lord‘:

As we walk this Lent with Christ on his Way of the Cross, ‘may he who began a good work in you… bring it to completion‘ (Phil. 1.6),

Fr Richard