“What is Lent for but to bring us back to life? – to submit to those spiritual disciplines that bring us to life and bring another to life.” With those words Pastor Ruth began the Ash Wednesday Lenten service in the narthex at CEUMC. The service was a new format, beginning with a shared dinner (potluck) followed by a service involving traditional and nontraditional readings and music.
There were people from each of the churches in the cluster, each of which will be hosting a service on sequential Wednesdays this Lent. The tables in the narthex were set up in the shape of a cross, and the mirror at the back … caught a reflection of Jesus standing in the sanctuary.
The title of the evening was “Ash Wednesday in A Major Key: Lord of the Dance.” It was a reflective and thoughtful service with community and laughter and energy.
Ruth commented, “Lent is a walking humbly – but joyfully. Lent is a holy spring, a time of trusting in the earth as the giver of life. A season to celebrate that we come from ashes and to ashes we return, from the earth we come and to the earth we return… Ash Wednesday is about life and death, dust and ashes. The joy God intended in settling us in a garden. And out of a garden on Easter morning we shall know a newness of life – fragrant and filled with joy. We are beginning a holy journey and a joyful journey to find those places that give us life, to practice, to rediscover the dance of life.
“Our groundedness in the earth, on the face of the earth, our trust in the elements of the earth, and in the one who created heaven and earth.
- Ash Wednesday in a Major Key.
- In the shape of a cross.
- JS Bach.”
Mark Braun played on the piano a suite of dances by JS Bach, the Partita #5 in G major with the individual dances played between the readings and the different parts of the service. At the end we sang Sydney Carter’s “Lord of the Dance,” which is based on the Shaker Hymn, “Simple Gifts,” written in Alfred, Maine.
One of the moments included Pastor Ruth relating how at Ginny Jordan’s burial Lester Jordan, a farmer, lovingly placed dirt onto Ginny’s grave as if he were planting. Some of the readings, masterfully read by various leaders, included, “Blessing the Dust: A Blessing for Ash Wednesday,” by Jan Richardson; “What the Living Do,” by Marie Howe; “Lenten Psalm of Awakening,” by Edward Hays, and a prayer from the Iona Community. There were readings from Joel 2 and Matthew 6 on fasting, from Matthew 6 on offering, and from Psalm 51 on communion.
We wrote on special purple tissue paper, crumpled the paper, then uncrumpled it and rolled it and then lit it with incense sticks of myrrh and magically, still flaming, it lifted upwards and floated back down as embers.
We shared communion.
The offering was taken for a Medical Clinic in Guatemala. This clinic is ready to go but has no doctor. It will take $40,000 to staff it for 3 years. The New England Conference has as a goal to raise this money. Our cluster has a goal of raising $4000 for this. We really have to raise only $2000, because an anonymous donor has pledged $2000 if we raise the other $2000. We are on the way, having raised about 1/6th of this at this service. Enjoy the photos.
Please come for the upcoming Wednesday services during Lent at the other cluster churches.
Thornton Heights UMC – 2/20/13,
West Scarborough UMC – 2/27/13,
Peoples UMC – 3/6/13,
Elm Street UMC – 3/13/13
First UMC – 3/20/13
For additional photos of the evening, click here: