I heard a Mardi Gras service was planned for St. Mary’s Episcopal 11:30 a.m. service on February 10, and focused my Church Visit activities in their direction. Mardi Gras is typically a time of celebration just prior to Ash Wednesday and the commencement of Lent.
This service turned out to be a wonderful time of celebration. I was most surprised by the exuberance demonstrated by the congregation. The tone was set by Wade Hampton-Miller’s Praise Singers and instrumentalists. Joining them this morning was a clarinetist and trumpeter who added an especially peppy sound.
Upbeat songs were inserted at appropriate places in the liturgy. Wonderful renditions of Glory, Glory, Hallelujah; Down By the Riverside; Just a Closer Walk With Thee; Rock of Ages; What a Friend We Have in Jesus; and When the Saints Go Marching In filled the air. The singing by the congregation of these well-known hymn tunes was more powerful than in many of our area churches, including the praise-style CCM churches.
The Rev. Ted Cole delivered a meaningful pre-Lenten message on Peak Experiences on Our Faith Journey. After reciting various peak experiences of Moses, Jesus and Peter, James, and John on the Mountain, Cole challenged people to be transformed by following Jesus.
He concluded by noting ”We are on a journey of transformation into the image of God in Christ, and we see it reflected in the faces of one another as we come together in a community gathered in Christ’s name. On our journey, we come today to the threshold of another season of Lent, a season of the spirit, a season of prayer and fasting, a season of preparation for Holy Week, when we remember Jesus’ last trip to Jerusalem and the events that unfolded there. In our shallowness, we sometimes make Lent about what we give up, what we abstain from, what we want to stop doing. Instead, I invite you to see this Lent as an opportunity to go high and deep, as to a mountain. See this Lent as a time to pray, as a time to seek guidance with people you trust, and as a time to listen to what God has to say to you. For God is speaking still to us, if we choose to listen.”
The complete text of Cole’s excellent message is attached as a PDF below. (not currently available)
I’m aware not all area church congregations observe pre-Lenten activities, Ash Wednesday, and Lent, but more than half do. Whether or not you believe in and observe Lent, churches like St. Mary’s Episcopal inject a significant meaning into this time of year leading up to Easter. I find it curious that so many of the non-observing churches jump right in with Good Friday, and Easter Sunday, totally ignoring the journey to the cross, saying it’s not in scripture. These same churches observe many activities and practices during their church year that are not specifically noted in scripture. More than a few churches, Baptists for example, are pondering why they don’t also observe Lent. In an upcoming post, I’ll share some Baptist thinking regarding this. It will be national in scope, not necessarily reflective of Alaska sentiment.