Midweek Update: Ash Wednesday & 1st Sunday in Lent

Dear friends in Christ,

I hope you’re all doing well. Today is Ash Wednesday, the first day of the season of Lent. The First Congregational Church of Watertown has invited us to their 7pm Ash Wednesday service. The Rev. Dr. Cindy Carr and I will lead the service together, and I will be preaching. In addition to Ash Wednesday, there are a number of things going on in the life of the church:

COVID Updates

This Sunday we’re adding back more music into our service: another hymn and the Gloria Patri. As cases continue to go down, we’re working on increasing the amount of music in worship and the number of people from choir participating. Coffee hour returned last Sunday, so our time of fellowship and food is back. We are currently still requiring masks for worship, and Church Council will continue to revisit our precautions monthly.

Lent Scripture Discussion: Women of Wisdom, Wednesdays 7pm in Conference Room and on Zoom

Lent is a traditional time to spend a bit more time with scripture, and once again I will be leading a scripture discussion on Wednesday evenings in Lent starting on Wednesday 3/9. I’ve attached the schedule. During Lent of 2020, I’d planned our Lent discussion to be about some of the strong women in the Bible, only for the pandemic to hit before we could really get going. Since Lent starts in Women’s history month this year, it seemed a good time to give this series another go. In case any of the men are nervous, don’t worry, there are still plenty of men in these stories too. So, there’s something for everyone. You don’t need to do any homework or have any prior knowledge. Just bring yourself! For those of you who’d like to join on Zoom, I’ll send out a link in next Wednesday’s email.

St. Patrick’s Day Dinner: 3/17 from 5-6:30pm

The corned beef sandwiches from last year were such a hit that we’re bringing them back! On St. Patrick’s Day we’ll have corned beef sandwiches for $7. You’re welcome to take your sandwiches to go or to eat in the Social Hall. Preorders are encouraged; you can contact Ellen or the Church Office.

Lent Mission Project: The Ultimate Egg Off

In order to raise money for GWIM and add some extra festivity this Easter season, the Mission Board is sponsoring an Easter Egg decorating contact! (We’re talking lawn decoration sized eggs, not egg hunt sized eggs.)  I’ve attached the flyer Katie P. put together explaining the contest. It’s $5 to enter, and the winners in various categories will receive gift cards to Dunkin Donuts and, of course, bragging rights. All eggs must be at the church front lawn by Palm Sunday for voting that day. I’m looking forward to seeing what everyone puts together!

Praying for Peace in Ukraine

On Sundays at noon, we’ll ring the church bell as a prayer for peace. Everyone is welcome to take a moment then to join together in praying for peace in Ukraine and throughout the world.

War in Ukraine: Ways to Donate to Help

The United Church of Christ has partnerships and relationships with many denominations in Europe, and they’ve sent out an appeal for donations to go towards assisting refugees/people who have been displaced from Ukraine due to the war. Information about the campaign and how to donate is here: https://www.ucc.org/global-h-o-p-e/ukraine-emergency-appeal/?fbclid=IwAR1x_2eJOFD2BVwG66YeliBq1K2RSc0cvP44psLweXiJ0EoznAOlcoHIaao

If you’re looking for some other organizations to donate to to help with other aspects of this awful situation, this article has a number of options as well: https://www.vox.com/platform/amp/future-perfect/22955885/donate-ukraine?fbclid=IwAR2Tfo2xnypYZmufaKI2mAIWUCaxmtKBq9Wslgr8H468V0fU3EaV5_xUA6s

General Comments

As today is the first day of Lent, I wanted to share with you my favorite Lent poem by 17th century English priest and poet Robert Herrick:

To keep a true Lent

Is this a Fast, to keep

         The Larder lean?

         And clean

From fat of Veals and Sheep?

Is it to quit the dish

         Of Flesh, yet still

         To fill

The platter high with Fish?

Is it to fast an hour

         Or rag’d to go,

         Or show

A downcast look, and sour?

No; ‘tis a Fast, to dole

         Thy sheaf of wheat

         And meat

Unto the hungry soul.

It is to fast from strife,

         From old debate

         And hate;

To circumcise thy life.

To show a heart grief-rent;

         To starve thy sin,

         Not Bin;

And that’s to keep thy Lent.

What I appreciate most about this poem is Herrick is focusing observance of Lent not on denying ourselves things for the sake  of appearing righteous, but on using Lent to serve others and fast from all the ways we contribute to hate, strife, and bitterness. He frames Lent as a time for us to work on ourselves to be better and make the world better. I also hear echoes of Isaiah 58 where God tells the Israelites that fasting on holy days doesn’t make up for the hatred and injustice going on. The true fast God desires is to feed the hungry, house the homeless, stop injustice, and cease the speaking of evil.

In light of the terrible war in Ukraine, spurred on by hate and vain ambition, keeping a true Lent seems a timely response: share with hungry souls, fast from strife, old debate, and hate.

Have a blessed Lent.

Peace,

Pastor Katrina

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