February 27, 2018

Church Lenten Discipline

We are now in the season of Lent. As the Book of Common Prayer reminds us in the Ash Wednesday service:

… I invite you, therefore, in the name of the Church, to the observance of a holy Lent, by self-examination and repentance; by prayer, fasting, and self-denial; and by reading and meditating on God's holy Word. And, to make a right beginning of repentance, and as a mark of our mortal nature …

Many of us make genuine efforts to follow the practices suggested for Lent but in our humanness many times fall short. I especially remember one story where a parishioner fell in the parking lot of the local bakery right after the Good Friday Service in her haste to buy the cake she had given up for Lent. Though our efforts are not always successful I believe they are certainly worthwhile.

In addition to our individual practices of self-denial or self-examination I think it also worthwhile to engage in these same practices corporately. What if collectively as congregations we agreed to rid ourselves of bad habits and engage in new practices that enhance the overall life of our church? For example:

  • We can give up being unwelcoming and be intentional about launching welcome programs, not just for the ushers or welcome committee but for all in the church
  • We can give up expecting specific individuals to clean or maintain the church and have church-wide cleaning days where all are involved
  • We can give up on the same offering every week and be intentional as a congregation to work towards giving a tithe
  • We can give up on our elementary understanding of the Bible and be intentional as a congregation to do ongoing Bible Study
  • We can give up on outreach programs that practice a charity model and work towards outreach programs that empower our clients
  • We can give up on expecting the clergy to be the only ministers and as the laity minister to each other, for example by visiting the sick and shut-in

In many activities such as exercise or weight loss programs having a partner or group to share the good and bad experiences often yield better results. Likewise in practicing these Lenten disciplines as congregations we can hold each other accountable and have sustained blessings in our life together as Christians.