St Alban's Church

Churchill Parken 6, Langelinie, DK 1263, Copenhagen, Denmark | Map


Today is: Tuesday 16th, 2019

Silence, Study, Service - A Message from the Chaplain

Posted on Thursday 4th February, 2016

My dear friends,

Lent — which begins this year on 10 February — leaves many of us wondering what we should give-up, or perhaps take-up, during this 40-day season of self-examination, fasting and preparation for Easter. Many people want to “keep a good Lent” but are unsure as to how to go about it.

Thankfully, help is at hand in the form of some excellent advice from Peter J. Gomes, the long-time Minister at the Memorial Church at Harvard University, who died in 2011. His guidance, shared with generations of students and staff at the Massachusetts college, was to organise their Lenten practices around three “S’s”: Silence, Study, and Service.

On “Silence” Gomes recommended that we secure fifteen minutes of absolute quiet during at least one day each week in Lent. This, he said, could be scheduled for any appropriate place at any time — though he did counsel against scheduling the silent time for bedtime: “you will fall asleep, and although sleep is silent, it is not the silence of which we speak”!

As regards “Study” the Harvard preacher again advised setting aside fifteen minutes on one day in each week of Lent — this time for ordered reading of suitable texts. To those who wish to read from the Bible, he proposed choosing one of the four Gospels, or reading through the Psalms.

Finally, in relation to “Service” — an indispensable part of Lenten discipline, as “contrary to popular perception, Lent is not personal or private" — Gomes again suggested a fifteen minute investment each week, this time in some work of charity or kindness, lest we become “too private and self-absorbed.”

To those who might say that these fifteen minute recommendations — a total of just 45 minutes a week — are hopelessly inadequate, Gomes’ reply was that:

It is better to succeed in little than to fail in much, and more Christians have been lost to the faith by attempting so much that they are destined to fail, unable to do anything. Spiritually, as in other matters, we must crawl before we walk, and walk before we run or leap. My counsel is to try the routine as proposed until at least mid-Lent and then adjust it as you wish.

Wise advice indeed from a man who was widely considered to be one of the most inspiring preachers of his generation.

Gomes’ guidance in full can be accessed here as a PDF file. If, after reading it, you need some suggestions for Lenten reading, do please consider joining one of our Lent groups — either in Aarhus or in Copenhagen.

May you have a fruitful Lenten journey this year, and may you find time for silence, study and service.


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