Friday, January 29, 2016

Lent is coming!

Part of the church's life is keeping up with the changing of seasons, sacred as well as secular.  For example, I have been talking with pastors who feel wiped out.  Advent and Christmas finished up and suddenly, the Annual Meeting looms large on the radar in a few short weeks.   And more to the point, some congregations went into the Christmas season with promises that they would work on the necessities of a church's annual meeting (agenda, nominations, agreeing to a finalized budget), only to get to January 1st and realize that those promises went unfilled.

This year is especially trying for church leaders as the season of Lent begins earlier than we sometimes imagine it should.  The date for Easter Sunday is a moving target, so unlike Christmas where "December 25th" is synonymous with the holiday.  Easter this year will be on March 27th, which means in turn that Ash Wednesday is February 10th!  (And if this is the first you've thought about it in late January, I join you in saying, "Eek!")

So, if you have followed the pattern outlined above (and let's not forget that many churches also hold a number of events around the MLK Civic Holiday weekend as well!), you've gone from one thing to another to another to another to another.   And let's be honest, none of these events are ever "low key" or "easily planned and implemented".

So, a word for the wise.  Planning matters greatly!  I know some weeks are full of unexpected, unplanned for events and needs within the average church (large or small).  Procrastination can be one of the deadly sins of clergy and worship planners, however, there is indeed hope when you get into the habit of looking well in advance to sketch out possibilities.  You can still leave room for last minute adjustments, but with a little forethought, you can have a better experience of the Lenten season (or any other time sacred or secular) that needs attentiveness yet should also be an enjoyable, meaningful experience for the participants and the planners alike!

For the Lenten season, here are a small number of resources that I have found helpful in getting my heart and mind in the mood and the mode of the season as well as some books I hope to read soon that are new to the market and look quite promising:
Bartlett, David, Barbara Brown Taylor and Kimberly Bracken Long.  Feasting on the Word, Lenten Companion: A Thematic Resource for Preaching and Worship.  Westminster/John Knox Press, 2014.

Blair Gilmer Meeks.  Season of Ash and Fire: Prayers and Liturgies for Lent and Easter.  Abingdon Press, 2004. 

Cunningham, David S.  Friday, Saturday, Sunday:  Literary Meditation on Suffering, Death and New Life.  Westminster/John Knox, 2007.

Maitland, Sara.  A Year in Silence.  Counterpoint, 2010.

Martin, James, SJ. Seven Last Words of Christ: An Invitation to a Deeper Friendship with Jesus.  HarperOne, 2016. 

Rutledge, Fleming.  The Crucifixion:  Understanding the Death of Jesus Christ.  Eerdmans, 2015.

Williams, Rowan.  Meeting God in Paul: Reflections for the Season of Lent.  Westminster/John Knox, 2015.

ONLINE:   Textweek provides a weekly resource for pastors and worship planners who follow the Revised Common Lectionary (RCL).  It takes awhile to understand the various treasures routinely linked each week in different sections, but it will help you in the long run as a well curated source for planning needs.  A Lenten guide published by the Calvin Institute of Worship, cross referencing a variety of resources.  A Wiki article about the dating of Easter (historical and theological debates await!)

And last but not least, ecumenical discussions are being held between religious leaders to fix the date for Easter's observance.  The "second Sunday of April" may very well become synonymous with Easter!   Read more:

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