Ember days — lifelong opportunities for preparation

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Ember days — lifelong opportunities for preparation

Ordinand Charles Cowper looks at Ember days - days set aside at the beginning of four liturgical seasons - to ask how they might help us, whatever our stage of life or ministry.

September 2021

The Ember days are days set aside at the beginning of four liturgical seasons.

Traditionally they are days of fasting, abstinence and almsgiving. Their purpose is to provide a period of preparation for the ordaining of clergy, to thank God for the gifts of nature, to teach us to make use of them in moderation, and to provide alms to assist the needy.

The scriptural basis for this time is taken from the Acts of the Apostles: ‘As they ministered to the Lord and fasted, the Holy Spirit said, “Now separate to me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them” ’ (Acts 13:2).

One might consider what we are all undertaking as ordinands in our formation as a long Embertide, a long time of prayer and preparation to ready us for our ordination and sacred ministry. We spend time listening to the Holy Spirit, discerning what is the work to which we are called.

At the end of the last Embertide, many in our community were ordained. During Embertide they will have gone on retreat with ordinands from across the diocese — days for a time of prayer and final preparation before they are ordained. The season of their lives spent at Ridley will pass, and the next will come.

But, like the seasonal Ember days, after we leave theological college we will all have to return to our preparation. There are four seasons spread throughout the year which cause us to reconsider and reflect on what the work of sacred ministry is. Likewise, we will need to return to what we have learned in this time, the things we have been given in this period of preparation.

Whether you are still training, heading into curacy or been ministering for many years, I’d recommend looking up the prayers for Embertide (to be found both in Common Worship and the BCP). Sit with them and consider what you have been given, how best to treasure and use those things, and how best to return to them in later life and ministry.

Ask those approaching ordination how you might best pray and fast for them over the next few months. Consider those you know who are beginning or undergoing the discernment process, and pray for them. And take a moment to pray for those of us heading into another year as part of the Ridley community, for what we are all doing in this place and in this time.

Charles Cowper