Lenten season starts with Ash Wednesday
by W. Winston Skinner
Plates of pancakes will be served up Tuesday, and ashen crosses will be seen on foreheads Wednesday as Lent begins in Coweta County.
Lent — a solemn observance during the six weeks leading to Easter — is observed by Christians around the world. Local churches are planning activities, services and times for reflection during Lent.
“All Christians are called to prepare for the celebration of the Resurrection of Jesus at Easter by observing the three-fold discipline of Lent — which includes prayer, fasting and almsgiving,” said Henry Atem, pastor of St. George Catholic Church.
In Coweta County, Lent is a time when Christians from various denominations come together for worship. Ecumenical Lenten services will be held each Wednesday at noon at several Newnan area churches.
The service location will rotate, and each half hour service will feature music and a short message by a pastor from another church. A meal — following each service — will be available for $5, and reservations are not required.
The schedule for the community Lenten services will be:
• March 5, First Baptist Church. Dr. Harry Barrow, pastor of Newnan Presbyterian Church, will preach.
• March 12, St. George Catholic Church. Jimmy Patterson, pastor of First Baptist Church of Newnan.
• March 19, Central Baptist Church. Allan Sandlin, rector of St. Paul’s Episcopal Church.
• March 26, St. Paul's Episcopal Church. Atem, preaching.
• April 2, Newnan Presbyterian Church. Stuart Greene, pastor of First United Methodist Church of Newnan.
• April 9, First United Methodist Church. Rick Price, pastor of Cornerstone United Methodist Church.
• April 16, Cornerstone United Methodist Church. Dr. Joel Richardson, pastor of Central Baptist Church.
Lent officially begins with Ash Wednesday. This coming Tuesday is Shrove Tuesday, and there is a tradition of serving pancakes to use up fat and other rich food items before people begin fasting or other forms of sacrifice when Lent begins.
Newnan Presbyterian Church and St. Paul’s Episcopal Church will have Shrove Tuesday pancake suppers.
The deacons will serve the meal at the Presbyterian church, which will be held from 5-7 p.m. The menu will include pancakes and bacon. There also will be King Cake, a Mardi Gras tradition associated with the start of Lent.
Cost for the Presbyterian pancake supper is $5 per person — with a maximum of $16 per family. Reservations should be made by noon Monday at the churches website — www.newnanpres.org — or by calling the church office at 770-253-4405.
The youth are spearheading plans for the pancake supper and service at St. Paul’s. The supper will start at 6 p.m., and proceeds will help send the youth on their early summer mission trip.
The service will begin following the supper and conclude with the burning of the palms from last year's Palm Sunday service and the burying of the Alleluia Banner. The Alleluia Banner tradition dates to the Middle Ages and is a reminder of the hope of resurrection for Christians.
People who have palms from last year’s Palm Sunday service are asked to bring them to St. Paul’s on Sunday where there will be a designated basket in the narthex. Anyone planning to attend the pancake supper at St. Paul’s should call 770-253-4264 no later than Monday.
A pancake supper is also set for 6 p.m. Tuesday at Resurrection Lutheran Church.
One of the most ancient rituals in Christianity is observed on Ash Wednesday when the sign of the cross is made — using a mixture of ashes and oil — on the foreheads of worshippers. The ashes often are from palms used the previous Palm Sunday.
The community Lenten service Wednesday at noon at First Baptist will offer the imposition of ashes.
Several services are set for Wednesday at St. George Catholic Church. “Ashes, which symbolize this penitential season, will be distributed at the Masses scheduled that day at 8:30 a.m., 12 noon and 6 p.m. in English, as well as Domingo Eucharista at 8 p.m.,” said Jim Stagg, a member of the parish.
“In observance of the Lenten season, Liberty Christian Church will have an Ash Wednesday service,” member Beth Walker said. Liberty Christian — located at 948 Macedonia Road — is one of the county’s oldest congregations and meets in a building dating to 1854.
“A light meal will be served in the fellowship hall at 6 p.m.,” Walker said. The service — led by Liberty’s new pastor, Anita Renahan-White — will begin at 6:45 p.m.
There also will be Ash Wednesday services on Wednesday at 7 p.m. at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, at Resurrection Lutheran Church and at Word of God Lutheran Church in Peachtree City. The service at Word of God “will include the imposition of ashes and Holy Communion,” member Joan Secor said.
In addition to the Lenten services in Newnan, there will be a series of services in the southern part of the county this year. Emily Wilbert of Moreland United Methodist Church said several pastors have been contacted in the "South of 16" focus area. Luthersville United Methodist Church and White Oak Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church have agreed to participate, and Wilbert is waiting to hear from other churches.
“The marvelous Lenten services in Newnan over the past several years” were an inspiration on planning the services which will be held at Moreland Methodist this year, she said. Services will be held on Tuesdays from March 11-April 15. The noon service will be “followed by a soup lunch,” Wilbert said.
The services will include a call to worship/invocation, hymns, a responsive reading, readings from the Old and New Testaments and a meditation message.
Like Newnan, “our area could also benefit from an organized effort to reach out to not only our church members, but their friends and others who might come to hear a message of encouragement in the lunch time frame during the week,” Wilbert said.
Resurrection Lutheran will hold mid-week Lenten services starting March 12. Soup and sandwiches will be served at 6:15 p.m. — with the service starting at 7 p.m.
Secor said Word of God Lutheran will hold services during Lent “each week from March 12-April 9 at 7 p.m.”
Lent continues through Easter, when Christians celebrate the Resurrection of Jesus. The week prior to Easter is Holy Week. Palm Sunday, the Sunday before Easter, recalls Jesus’ entry into the city less than a week before He was crucified.
Holy Thursday or Maundy Thursday often features communion. There also are services on Good Friday. Tenebrae services, in which the church is gradually darkened, and Stations of the Cross may be associated with services during Holy Week.
On Easter itself, many churches will hold a sunrise service, which recalls followers of Jesus coming to His tomb before dawn. Cantatas and other music-drama programs are often held at area churches, and Easter egg hunts at churches are also part of the celebration of the season.