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Lent and springtime have much in common. They both offer remarkable opportunities to stretch after a long winter nap in the cold darkness. They are chances to green up from the dry, dull brownness that marks our withered spirits. Lent is a pilgrimage of 40 days and 40 nights. It takes us from arid deserts to mountaintop heights, from gardens of agony to hilltop crosses. It is a voyage that commemorates authentically passionate living, the sort of suffering that many try to avoid and all know is part and parcel of true life.
Lent is the time and space we give ourselves to prepare for Easter’s resurrecting hope.
For a number of years, Lent has been celebrated in a unique fashion by the various church communities in the Shallotte area. In a marvel of church unity and a solid expression of ecumenism, the many denominations join for lunch and a common worship service each Wednesday of Lent, beginning on Ash Wednesday and ending the week prior to Holy Week by walking the Way of the Cross down Main Street in Shallotte.
The luncheons are a wonderful experience of a movable feast as churchgoers and non-churchgoers alike travel weekly from one site to another to break open the Word of God, as well as break bread together. I have always been impressed with the large numbers of folks who choose to spend their Wednesday lunches with fellow sojourners on their way to God. One group chooses to make this a particularly “holy morning.” They begin with attendance at an earlier service at their own church, followed by a Bible study, and then arrange carpool travel to be with the Lenten lunch bunch.
There is such a tremendous spirit of compassion and cooperation in the gathering as we learn each other’s hymns and methods of praying. Sometimes, the learning is not easy, but the effort expended is laudable — and loudly applauded. In other words, everyone has fun with the venture of worshipping as one body with the enthusiasm of spending Wednesdays with God!
To honor the sense of the season, the meals are plain and simple, enough to nourish without losing the reality that our hunger for God must supersede all else. Each year has had its own Lenten theme. The topic for 2014 is a simple but profound reminder of real living found “Beneath The Cross.” To approach a response, each guest speaker will address a selected verse from Scripture. Hymns appropriate to the theme will be sung and a blessing will send all into the busyness of the week with a different perspective and a transformed spirit.
The program is kept simple and scheduled to fit into the space of just one hour. Business people, as well as retired folks, can plan their schedules accordingly. It is hard to find excuses not to attend without hearing the pain of those plaintive words from the Garden of Gethsemane: “Could you not wait one hour with Me?”
Just an hour – that’s all. Sixty minutes of treasure we can all find and give ourselves in the 10 thousand and 80 minutes of our 24/7 lifestyles. It’s not a lot to ask and far too little to spare for an experience that will bring us nearer to God and closer to each other.
Each Wednesday service begins at 11:50 a.m. The schedule of churches, speakers, and topics is as follows:
Beneath the cross...
March 5, Ash Wednesday, at St. Luke Lutheran, Homilist: Rev. Pat Fletcher. “Beneath the cross of Jesus I long to take my stand,” Philippians 2:1–11 and John 16:16–33.
March 12 at Seaside United Methodist, Homilist: Rev. David Davis. “The shadow of a mighty rock within a weary land,” 1 Peter 2:4–10 and Matthew 7:24–27.
March 19 at St. Brendan Roman Catholic, Homilist: Rev. Joe Needham. “A home within a wilderness, a rest upon the way,” Ephesians 2:11–22 and John 14:1–7.
March 26 at Shallotte Presbyterian, Homilist: Rev. Mary Jane Wilson-Parsons. “From my contrite heart, with tears,” 1 John 1:5–10 and Luke 7:36–50.
April 2 at St. Brendan/Camp United Methodist (host), Homilist: Rev. Allen Gibson. “The very dying form of One who suffered there for me,” Romans 5:1–6 and John 19:16–22.
April 9 at Calvary Baptist, Homilist: Fran Salone-Pelletier. “I take, O cross, your shadow for my abiding place.” Colossians 1:15–20 and Mark 8:31–9:1.