Catholics, Protestants alike to mark Ash Wednesday
Lent isn't only a Catholic observance, as several area Protestant ministers will attest.
The imposition of ashes on Ash Wednesday is a popular rite among Catholics, but also at Zion Lutheran Church in downtown Greensburg and Emmanuel Reformed United Church of Christ in Export.
At Emmanuel, a confessional service with imposition of ashes is scheduled for 7 p.m. Wednesday. It will include a short meditation by the Rev. Joseph Hedden.
At Zion, Eucharistic liturgies with imposition of ashes are scheduled for 10 a.m. and 7 p.m. Wednesday. The church is hosting a weekly Lenten service at 12:05 p.m. and luncheon at 12:30 p.m. every Thursday during Lent.
“With Ash Wednesday, we are invited into the discipline of Lent,” said the Rev. Brian Chaffee, Zion pastor. “For us, it is a penitential time for self-examination. All of these things are marks of the Christian life, but particularly during Lent.”
Chaffee said Lent is a time of year, a spiritual season, that should feel different. “There is a more somber sense and feel in Lent. Our worship is slowed down a bit. It's quieter,” he said.
Four UCC congregations in Greensburg take turns hosting midweek services during Lent. St. John's Harrold UCC will have a weekly program at 6 p.m. every Wednesday during Lent, and First UCC, Irwin, will have its weekly Lenten service at noon Wednesday.
“In the UCC, we have a lot of members who were raised Catholic, so we draw on a lot of different sources for our (Lenten) traditions,” said the Rev. Steve Craft, pastor of First Reformed UCC in downtown Greensburg.
For some Protestants, Lent is not only a time to give something up.
“The thing we hear more and more is: What are you adding for Lent?” Chaffee said. “Volunteering at a soup kitchen, random acts of kindness, visiting someone in jail — the thought now is not so much giving something up, but doing something more.”
That Lenten addition might be a certain spiritual practice, such as prayer or meditation, Hedden said.
“This year, our congregation (Emmanuel Reformed) has thought about trying some things we haven't done before, drawing on what Christians have done for 2,000 years,” Hedden said.
The members of Jeannette Assembly of God began the year with a fasting period similar to Lent, the Rev. Thomas Kroll said.
“We gave the Lord the first month of the year,” he said. “I certainly agree with the Lenten season of giving up something and preparing ourselves for the celebration of the Lord's resurrection.”
Not all Christians start Lent on Ash Wednesday.
Byzantine Catholics began Lent on Monday. Orthodox Christians, for whom Easter falls on April 8, begin Lent this Sunday evening, with the rite of forgiveness.