Faith: More Than a Hobby

St. Michael’s Vicarage
Alnwick

Dear People of Alnwick,

I never cease to be fascinated when, in conversation, people tell me about their hobbies. In fact, taking the dictionary definition of a hobby as “a favourite pursuit; a personal pastime that interests or amuses one…” I suppose you could say that one of my hobbies is hearing about other people’s hobbies.

Talking with people when visiting them in their homes, I have heard about many varying interests: travelling, photography, local history, music and building computers to name just a few.

Perhaps the reason why I am so interested in the hobbies of those with whom I come into contact is that it can give some indication of “what makes them tick”: what it is that contributes towards fulfilment in their lives; what it is that gives them a “buzz” and upon which they are prepared to spend countless hours of their time.

And sometimes it can be extremely surprising. What, for instance, motivated a friend of mine – a well-respected Parish Councillor and organised at his local church – to take up potholing at the age of 60? (Upon hearing the news, my own assessment was that, after years of working in the National Health Service, he had finally “lost the plot”!)

Of course, the spectrum of hobbies which exists amongst those of us who call ourselves Christians is just as wide ranging – if not more so – than any other group of diverse people. We are, after all, just as much in need of pleasure, enjoyment and being taken out of ourselves as anyone else.

We do, however, need to be extremely careful that we do not treat our faith as a hobby. Our belief in God and in the saving power of his Son, Jesus Christ, is not like a piece of embroidery or a book that we can pick up or lay down as the feeling takes us. Nor can we treat our faith like football supporters who only attend a game when they feel like it. Our faith involves determination and commitment to a cause. It demands a constant programme of prayer, reflection and worship; a constant striving to get the better of our weaknesses and blot out our shortcomings; a hunger to give ourselves more and more in the service of Christ and to show his love in a world that often appears to have lost its loveliness.

Our faith can and should be so much more than the dictionary definition I quoted at the beginning of this letter. Particularly, it needs to be much more than a “pastime that amuses…”

This year, we have the whole of February before Ash Wednesday and Lent is upon us. What a luxury! Yes, it’s a short month, but I urge you to begin to prepare for how you may use Lent to make a real commitment to seek out a spiritually fulfilling six weeks.

Lent does not need to be miserable! It is possible (and definitely preferable) to have positive experiences whilst still growing and deepening in faith. Not everyone feels motivated to get up really early for a quiet service of Holy Communion – but some do. Not everyone finds discussion groups their ‘thing’ – but some do. Look out for what is on offer and resolve to commit wholeheartedly to making progress. You might find it even more rewarding than a game of golf or a trip to the cinema.

With every blessing,

Paul.

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