Happy All Saints Day. I was raised in a tradition that didn’t value the festivals of the church year. While studying at an Anglican Seminary, I learned to appreciate the cycles of the church year. Part of my learning came from reading a memoir structured around the church year, Girl Meets God, by Lauren F. Winner.
I first encountered an part of Winner’s memoir as an article. I didn’t remember who wrote the article, but I remembered what it was about. It was about giving up books for Lent. The author described how she was challenged by her priest to give up reading for Lent. I thought Hah, I could never do that. She thought a similar thing, and I was encouraged by her attempt. I didn’t give up all reading for Lent as Winner did. I only gave up reading fiction for Lent. To make up for the lack of fiction, I dove into my non-fiction books with a vengeance. I got A LOT of non-fiction reading done. I read biographies that had been sitting on my shelf for ages, essays, collections of letters, books for a course I was taking, some spirituality books, and a book on reading. I read 15 books during the 40 days of Lent. But I missed fiction. I longed for Easter to come. I had the fast-breaking book (Little Women) all lined up. I think that is part of the point of fasting during Lent – we long for Easter, we desire the hope of the resurrection. But there is another point to fasting that I totally missed that year. Part of the point of giving something up is to remind us to pray. Missed that one. Back to Winner and Girl Meets God – even before I read the book, Winner influenced me through her article. It changed the way I did Lent in 2001.
I read Girl Meets God in 2005. It begins with Sukkot (The Feast of Tabernacles) and continues from Advent to Advent, following the Christian year. When I got to Lent I had a sudden shock of recognition! I’d encountered Winner before, and she’d already changed the way I thought about Lent. I gained a new appreciation for my challenge to stop reading that Lent. I also gained a new appreciation for other parts of the church calendar from reading and re-reading Winner. We need to be reminded regularly of the different ways God works. All Saints celebrates the lives of all Christians through the centuries. There’s a great hymn to go with the day – there are about 50 verses it seems, but here is one version with some of the verses I particularly like.