Offering our Prayers for Lent
In a poignant moment of the Ash Wednesday service at our church, personal prayers were written on small slips of paper, rolled like a tiny scroll, and then lighted with the flame of an incense stick.
As the scroll burned down, it lifted off the plate on which it had been placed and wafted toward the ceiling of the narthex. When the scroll was reduced to ashes, it floated back down and was caught on the plate of the person who offered the prayer.
Lord, receive our prayers.
The Ash Wednesday service at our church was the first in a series of Lenten gatherings hosted by members of the Casco Bay Cluster of United Methodist churches. Each of the cluster churches will host a service on Wednesdays at 6 p.m. through April 2. The next service will be at the West Scarborough UMC on March 12.
As will all Lenten services, the Ash Wednesday service began with reflective music, a prayer and a light supper of soup, bread and water. Tables in the narthex were set up in the shape of a large cross.
The theme for this year’s Ash Wednesday was “Hunger for God.” Following the shared meal together, participants were asked to have a “holy conversation” with others at their tables based on Matthew 5:6: “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be filled.”
Other scripture also was offered as inspiration for the conversation, including Luke 6:21 and John 6:33. And to begin, participants were asked to consider the following questions:
- Describe the most hungry for food you have ever been. What did it feel like?
- Describe the most hungry for God you have ever been. What did it feel like?
- When did you feel empty/full of God?
- How does food fit into your spiritual life, into Lent?
- How often will you share the bread of life this Lent?
The Rev. Ruth Morrison prepared everyone for Holy Communion by reading Emily Dickinson’s poem, “I Had Been Hungry All the Years.” At each table, participants were then asked to break bread for their own individual communions.
The service ended with a hymn, “Thy Holy Wings, O Savior,” and the offering of ashes, remnants from the burned scrolls of prayers.
The remaining schedule of Lenten services at Casco Bay UM churches:
- March 12: West Scarborough UMC, 6 p.m.
- March 19: Peoples UMC, 6 p.m.
- March 26: Elm Street UMC, 6 p.m.
- April 2: Thornton Heights UMC, 6 p.m.
The final portion of the “Hunger for God” theme for this Lenten season will be teams from each Casco Bay cluster church gathering at Thornton Heights on April 5 to pack 10,000 lunches to be distributed to Food Banks, Food Pantries, Disaster Relief sites, schools and Backpack programs, both locally and nationally.
The distribution of these meals is part of the Outreach, Inc. program in Union, Iowa.