Rather than the usual fare of no chocolate, caffeine or cake, the Bishop of Ramsbury has taken on an unusual challenge this Lent - he's given up the use of his car.
Bishop Edward Condry of the Diocese of Salisbury has challenged himself to travel around his rural community for forty days using purely public transport, his bicycle or by going on foot.
He is blogging each day about his experiences and cites three reasons for setting himself this challenge: to combat the climate change that threatens to destroy livelihoods, as demonstrated by the recent wave of winter storms across the UK; as part of a decision to take more seriously God's call to use the earth's resources carefully; and as a commitment to discipline and self-denial traditionally associated with Lent.
Just one week into the challenge he had already saved 622 miles in petrol by choosing to take the train, bus, bike or foot instead of hopping into his car. It hasn't been easy, however, though the Bishop notes that: "If we are going to do something about climate change it won't make our lives more convenient. That's not the point.
"This is showing me how dependant we are on the tin box on wheels," he says, although he adds that it hasn't all been bad.
"There's nothing like a good bike ride to get your thoughts straight, and the time on buses and trains will give me plenty of time to think and pray."
Bishop Ed shared with Christian Today more about his journey through Lent.
CT: Can you tell us more about the reasons behind the challenge?
EC: Firstly because I'm concerned about climate change, and secondly I wanted to do something for Lent that was positive, and not just about giving something up. Thirdly, I'm concerned that we have a full theology of body, mind and spirituality - it's not about just closing our eyes, praying and entering into some spiritual, ethereal realm. Spirituality is a real, concrete thing to do with our world and relationships.
CT: What's been the most difficult thing so far?
EC: The hills! It's very beautiful, but it takes that big longer to get anywhere and it's quite cold! But it has generated a lot of discussion and seems to be encouraging other people. Lots of people have commented on what I'm doing and at a meeting yesterday a couple of others had come on their bikes too.
I've realised just how dependent the Church is on petrol – we tend to get in the car every time we go to church or Bible studies, and so if we're serious about reducing our carbon footprint we've got to do something. I've no idea how! I don't expect everyone to get on their bikes, but something needs to be done.
CT: Have you found any positives – other than appreciation of your car!
EC: Well I love cycling! I've had people look at me sternly and say "You're actually going to enjoy Lent, aren't you?" But to that I say why not? We're meant to enjoy our faith and enjoy Lent. It's about doing something significant that makes an impact. It's not all sackcloth and ashes and being miserable.
CT: Do you think it's made you more aware of the choice we have as consumers?
EC: Yes, it's all part of making responsible decisions, like buying Fairtrade, turning down the thermostat and putting on a jumper instead.
CT: Are you hoping to inspire others to do the same?
EC: Absolutely - I hope people will make decisions to make a change. I happen to love cycling! It's just that to go any distance it takes a bit longer, and next week I've got a reasonably long bus journey to make.
It's made me aware that in country areas, old people and shift workers have real problems getting around without a car because local transport is quite sparse.
CT: Why is it important the Christians care about things like this?
EC: That's simple: because Jesus told us to.
To keep up to date with Bishop Ed's Lent challenge, follow his blog at http://bishopedward.wordpress.com/