From the Vicar Yesterday was Ash Wednesday and Lent has now begun! I wonder what it is that you have chosen to do this Lent? Read a spiritual book? Attend one of the Daily Offices? Book into the Quiet Day in Holy Week? What ever you have chosen to do, do it with a cheerful heart and enjoy some extra time with God and the opportunity for some reflection. Last week a group of us from the Minster returned from visiting Africa. Many of you will know that The Minster is linked to the Cathedral Church of St Peter at Kowak, in the Diocese of Rorya, on the Tanzania/Kenya border. I think for all of us who went, it will take time to process what we experienced and to recover from our exertions. For me it was both exhausting and emotional. Exhausting because travelling around Tanzania is very hard work, with few metalled roads, and constantly rolling around in a 4 x 4 can be literally quite bruising. Emotional because of what we witnessed and experienced: absolute poverty, child cruelty, corruption, as well as joy, generosity, and something of the created Order when we visited the Serengeti Park for the Safari at the end of our visit. Coming home I’ve felt quite angry about some of the priorities that we have here in our own country: given we are supposedly the fifth richest nation in the world, I find it difficult to accept that Food Banks are now the norm for most towns and cities, and that we allow people to live in relative poverty, when we have the means to support the most vulnerable and weakest members of our society. Tanzania on the other hand, is one of the poorest nations in the world, with many people living off the land and not in any position to pay any form of taxation, and hence the government has very little money to provide any form of safety net for people, let alone for roads, schools, and hospitals. The human condition is an interesting animal to observe. What is it that brings us true happiness? For the people of Tanzania it certainly isn’t the material things we enjoy in The West? Just like us they are vulnerable to the misuse of power over others, be it in the government, in the Church, or gender violence. The hope I saw with my own eyes was found through faith: faith in God and faith in the Church. These often, malnourished communities rock up to Church and sing and dance, and truly give God the glory. Sometimes their theology and experience of evangelism is too simplistic to translate across Europe, but the hope they bring to local communities means the Churches are growing and being planted, and the Diocese of Mara has now divided into three, whereas we have just joined three Diocese together to create the new Diocese of Leeds. Its hard to compare the two because the contexts are so different, and our experience of God is so different too. I was delighted to present the Cathedral with a Chalice to go with the Book of the Gospels I took last time I visited. In the Sunday morning service Canon Henry, the Vicar of the Cathedral consecrated the new Chalice, and after I had preached the sermon, we used it for the first time. The Cathedral presented us with some bowls in which to place candles in, and we shall bless them in the Minster and find a suitable home for them. Its good to be part of the Anglican Church both at home and abroad, and for the Minster to have an international ministry. In Holy Week we shall welcome Jens Peter-Bentzin, Vice Superintendent of the Diocese of Aachen, to be our Visiting Pilgrim, and to share with him both the death and the resurrection of our Lord. May Lent, be time for all of us to grow in Holiness.