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Observing a Long Lent

By Bishop Peggy A. Johnson

The word Lent comes from a German word, “lango” which means “long.” It references the “lengthening of the days that are characteristic of the season of spring.” The days continue to get longer. In that spirit, let’s observe a “Long Lent” this year. What are some of the ways we might do that?

Long-suffering –Long-suffering calls us to be long in mercy and love. No matter the circumstances, it means having patience with those who are difficult or are suffering long ordeals for the sake of the Kin-dom. Lent is a good time to examine how we respond to challenges.

Long view – Lent is also a time to have a long view of the future of God’s kin-dom. We need to step back sometimes and remember that God has a plan for the future with hope. Good will triumph over evil, love will cast out hate, and life will conquer death.

Longing for God - This kind of “longing” has to do with deep, almost desperate desire. Longing for God is an important aspect of our Lenten journey. Taking time for prayer, study, meditation in an attitude of “thirsting” for God’s Spirit is the key. Read more…

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Church members still fighting hunger from home for Lent

St. John’s Ivyland UMC is continuing its fight against hunger in a small but important mission project during this season of Lent. Members are wrapping plastic eating utensils at home to donate to the Trenton (N.J.) Area Soup Kitchen (TASK).

For three years the congregation has packaged hundreds of nutritious meals together on RISE Sundays during Lent, to support the global Rise Against Hunger project (formerly Stop Hunger Now). But COVID restrictions prevented that large-group activity in 2020 and 2021.

“We have tried to keep our congregation involved during this difficult time. We had a food drive where we collected over 1200 pounds of food for two local food banks,” said Ruth Portzline, Certified Lay Minister and Pastoral Associate.  “But we wanted to have a project that our congregation could still do at home, even if they can’t physically be in the church.”

So they turned to wrapping plastic ware at home to provide needed eating utensils to TASK. First, a team of volunteers collects, counts and bags the utensils at the church over two days, while practicing safe distancing. Read More

Please tell us how your church or Mission Link is observing Lent in special ways.

Weekly Lenten worship services or Bible studies, special events or ministry activities? Please tell us so we can spread the good word and let others know. Write to us at communications@epaumc.org.

Northwest Philadelphia Mission Link
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A pastor’s Lenten reflection for challenging times

By the Rev. Brad Leight, Pastor of St. John's Ivyland UMC

As the return of sunny days and moderating temperatures slowly yet surely melt away our piles of snow, we can see that spring is finally on its way. I sense this winter was a bit of a reality check for us; after relatively little snowfall for a few years, we were reminded how much “fun” consecutive snowstorms can be. Still, our inconveniences pale in comparison to the disaster and suffering experienced by our neighbors in the south this past February.

I still find it hard to process the magnitude of suffering experienced by so many in Texas during the recent deep freeze. Images of waterfalls in living rooms due to burst pipes, miles-long lines of cars waiting for a case of bottled water, and families burning furniture and wooden toys to stay warm defy comprehension. The fallout and investigation into who is responsible is already underway, with plenty of finger-pointing and excuses quickly following. We can only hope that meaningful changes will occur that will drastically limit the probability of a repeat disaster… yet I am skeptical. Why? One of the major issues identified so far was the lack of winterization measures taken by utility providers to prepare... Read More

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Church teaches Lent is for caring, sharing

The Christian Education ministries at Fritz UMC Bethlehem is observing Lent in special ways, including these activities among our children and youth:

  • Lenten Care Packages have been sent home to families, complete with snap pea seeds, soil, newspaper, the Lord’s Prayer broken into 6 graphics, and several different sized labyrinths. These are all tools to help us measure our personal prayer growth throughout the season of Lent, as well as helping us make connections to the New Testament lectionary readings throughout the 6 weeks leading to Easter.
  • ClearView Masks is a project aimed at getting face masks with clear middles onto as many faces as possible. The children in our Sunday School are concerned about those with hearing impairments, those who are deaf, and those who have a hard time interpreting social cues when mouths are obstructed from view. In early March, a Zoom meeting will be recorded to teach people how to sew a ‘clearview’ mask and how to retrofit an existing mask. The children invited everyone to join them in this project!
  • Centering in Prayer is a Lenten-long focus on prayer. Each week, we will examine a different part of the Lord’s Prayer, connecting our personal and corporate prayer lives with the use of labyrinths. This will all be happening for the children and families over Zoom, with the hopes of the snow melting long enough to enjoy a giant chalk labyrinth in our parking lot by the time Holy Week arrives.

Read More

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UMC bishops offer Lenten Season Devotions

The Council of Bishops of The United Methodist Church will offer a weekly devotion during the Lenten season which begins this week. Each Wednesday during Lent and every day during Holy Week, the council will release a 15-minute recorded devotion, led by a bishop and leaders from their episcopal areas.

“We are offering this Lenten Devotion Series on Dismantling Racism in the hope that the church can engage in honest reflection about the realities of racism, colonialism and tribalism,” noted Bishop Hope Morgan Ward of the North Carolina Annual Conference, who chairs the Council’s Task Force to End Racism. “All of these sins persist in the church, our local communities and the world. Lent is the time to humbly acknowledge this reality, to pray, to learn and ultimately work to reshape our world as it is in heaven.”

The devotions are part of the larger Dismantling Racism Initiative launched by the Council in June of 2020. The purpose of the Initiative is to cultivate sustained and coordinated effort to dismantle racism and to promote collective action for racial justice in the church and world.  Learn more…  

"Turning: An Ash Wednesday Sermon"

Rev. Dr. Susan Henry-Crowe's 2021 Ash Wednesday reflection

One of the most moving gestures of ministry is marking the foreheads of congregants with ashes on Ash Wednesday, beginning the season of Lent. “Remember you are dust and to dust you will return” are not easy words to utter. Dust making is not the aim of life. This + marking seems contrary to Christian life.

But the Christian community prepares for Easter by entering into this holy season of Lent with these words and this mark. We begin the season by remembering our need for reflection and repentance (turning) in order that Lent may be a time of renewal and transformation.

In a year of a world-wide pandemic when 2.4 million people have died and unfathomable sorrow and immeasurable disparities have been uncovered, we come to this Lenten season of self-examination, prayer and fasting and turning (repentance)... Read More

Forty days of apostleship: Six soulful steps to believe like Jesus

by Rebekah Simon-Peter

Do you believe like Jesus?

As Jesus journeyed to the cross and beyond, he had to be sure of one thing. Everything—his life, his ministry, his sacrifices—rested on this one thing. Jesus had to be sure that his twelve disciples were ready to step up their spiritual game.

To live into their true calling as apostles – first students of the gospel and now agents of the gospel—The Twelve would need to make a fundamental shift. They would need to move from believing in Jesus to believing like Jesus.  Read More

From Ministry Matters, an informative, insightful publication providing "a community of resources for church leaders" Subscribe here.  

Lenten Studies:

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Character Matters

The North District’s new Lenten Bible Study, titled Character Matters, is ready and available for use. The Rev. Steve Morton, District Superintendent, developed and produced the eight-session, multi-media resource.

It includes video presentations featuring district Elders, plus worksheets and a leader’s guide, all available on the North District’s website. Bishop Peggy Johnson also recorded a special Easter message to culimate the series.

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Free GCORR small-group resource for Lent

The General Commission on Religion and Race (GCORR) has a free Lenten resource to help small groups grow closer to God. Roll Down, Justice!, a Lenten Biblical reflection written by Faye Wilson, features music and reflections by Mark Miller and poses the following questions to believers: What are you prepared to give in order to have a closer walk with God? What can you give in order to embrace anew the work of justice? Learn more…

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New Lenten study offers hope

“Reclaiming and Living Covenant,” a new adult Lenten study published by the Baltimore-Washington Conference, is a deep dive into biblical covenant and hope that can lead to reconnecting relationships. That’s according to its two authors, who say the study is designed to help people on their spiritual journey toward Easter. Read story

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Repentance

Ash Wednesday, Feb. 17, and Lent offer a time for repentance. During Black History Month, our church continues to repent from its complicity with the sin of systemic racism. Learn more…

Churches Uniting in Christ offers ecumenical Lenten resources

The Coordinating Council of Churches Uniting in Christ announces the release of new, ecumenical resources for local congregations to use for this year’s Lenten and Eastertide services. Resources to help congregations understand and observe these special Christian occasions can be found on the Churches Uniting in Christ website resource page. There you will find an introduction video by Episcopal Presiding Bishop Michael Curry, and Bible studies and sermons by leading theologians. Learn more… 

Reflecting on racial injustice for Lent

SUN PRAIRIE, Wis. — A study course to help dismantle racism is offered by Bishop Hee-Soo Jung of the Wisconsin Conference. “Together in Christ: A Lenten Study on Beloved Community” includes eight sessions of prayers, lessons and discussion questions. Read curriculum (PDF)