Coming together for Lent

Published 12:08 am Saturday, February 13, 2010

With Lent beginning on Wednesday, Suffolk churches are making plans to recognize the season with prayer, reflection and fellowship.

Lent is the 40-day period (not including Sundays) leading up to Easter Sunday.

“It basically commemorates the suffering of Jesus, based on the 40 days in the wilderness He spent being tempted by the devil,” said the Rev. Michael Halley, minister at Suffolk Christian Church.

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The season begins on Ash Wednesday, which falls on Feb. 17 this year, and culminates on Easter Sunday, which is on April 4 this year.

Halley said the Lenten season is a good time for Christians to reflect on the basis of their faith — that Jesus Christ, who lived a sinless life, died by crucifixion to pay the price for the world’s sins, then rose again on the first Easter Sunday.

“In the Christian faith, what we’re trying to do is renew our faith, so that Easter becomes a celebration just like it was the very first time it was celebrated when Mary Magdalene goes to the tomb and finds out Jesus was resurrected,” Halley said. Recognition of the Lenten season is “a good way to prepare for a period of repentance and renewal of our faith and rededicating ourselves to living a Christian life,” he said.

A group of a dozen Suffolk churches are coming together in fellowship for Lenten services on the next seven Wednesdays. The services will begin promptly at noon and last until 12:30 p.m., at which time a luncheon will be served. The services are designed so that people who work in the downtown area can come during their lunch hour, Halley said.

“We want to be true to our people who are taking the lunch hour to come,” Halley said. “I look forward to [the services] every year, because they’re a marvelous opportunity.”

The services aim to bring together people who normally don’t attend church together in Christian fellowship, Halley said, and people also get the opportunity to experience a variety of formats and preaching styles.

“People are not only sitting in the pew and worshiping together, but sitting down at the table together,” Halley said. “They’re very well-attended.”

The service on Ash Wednesday will not feature the placing of ashes on attendees’ foreheads, as is the tradition in the Catholic faith.

“That’s not a tradition of most of the churches,” Halley said.

The services are open to everybody, and no reservations are needed. Halley expressed a hope that each service would be full.

“It is realizing that we are dust and to dust we shall return,” Halley said. “Life is a true gift of God, and it should be lived for God.”

St. Mary of the Presentation Catholic Church will hold traditional Catholic Ash Wednesday services at noon and 5:30 p.m. on Feb. 17.

Following is the schedule of services. Each service begins at noon with the soup and sandwich luncheon beginning at 12:30 p.m.

Feb. 17 — Suffolk Presbyterian Church, 410 N. Broad St., hosting; the Rev. Dr. Carlton Upton Sr. of Tabernacle Christian Church preaching

Feb. 24 — New Mount Joy Food for Living Ministry, 307 County St., hosting; the Rev. Dr. Reginald Warren of Holy Neck Christian Church preaching

March 3 — St. Mary’s Catholic Church, 202 S. Broad St., hosting; the Rev. Wendell Waller of Christian Home Baptist Church preaching

March 10 — East End Baptist Church, 523 E. Washington St., hosting; the Rev. Eddie Health of the Virginia Baptist Mission Board preaching

March 17 — Main Street United Methodist Church, 202 N. Main St., hosting; the Rev. Dr. Robert Hobbs of Metropolitan Baptist church preaching

March 24 — First Baptist Church Mahan Street, 112 Mahan St., hosting; the Rev. Dr. Keith Emerson, rector of St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, preaching