Ash Wednesday marks beginning of Lent

Published 10:58 pm Monday, February 23, 2009

Wednesday marks the beginning of Lent for many Christians. Lent is a season of spiritual discipline, cleansing and fasting that occurs over the 40 days leading up to Easter Sunday, which falls on April 12 this year.

Some churches around Selma will hold special Ash Wednesday services. During these services, congregation members receive a smudge of ash shaped like a cross on their foreheads. The ash is from blessed palm branches.

“The ashes are an outward sign of our personal sorrow and sadness for Christ having to die for our sins,” said Father Carroll Plourde, of Queen of Peace Catholic Church. “It’s also reminding us what he has done for us and our own individual way of showing we are followers of his.”

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Plourde will administer Mass at 8:30 a.m., 12:05 p.m. and 7 p.m. Wednesday. He said most of the more than 500 members would attend the morning or night service depending on work schedules.

Ash Wednesday is also a day of fasting and abstinence for Catholics. Plourde said Catholics refrain from eating meat on this day. Some even give up an item, such as meat, for the entire 40 days of Lent, which is symbolic of the 40 days Christ spent in fasting and praying in the desert.

Other congregations in Selma also honor Ash Wednesday.

Church Street United Methodist Church will hold a service at 6 p.m. Minister of music and program the Rev. Janet Nabors said the service would last about 45 minutes, and a nursery would be available for children. Nabors said the whole community is invited to the service, which will include a short sermon, hymns and the imposition of ashes.

The Rev. Fred Zeigler said the service would be somber because Lent is a season of sacrifice and remembrance of Christ’s suffering. Zeigler said his church does not prescribe rules for fasting.

“Most of the protestant churches just encourage their members to use this Lenten time as the preparation for the celebration of Easter,” Zeigler said.

First Presbyterian Church on Broad Street will hold an Ash Wednesday service at 6:15 p.m. Elder George Wood will lead the service while the Rev. Ron Stone is out of town.

Saint Paul’s Episcopal Church will also host three Ash Wednesday services at 7 a.m., noon and 6 p.m. Associate rector Joe Knight said the Episcopal church service most closely mirrors the Catholic church service. Knight and interim rector the Rev. James Elliott will both preside over the services. Beginning March 4, Saint Paul’s will host “Lenten Lunches” each Wednesday at noon. The lunches feature guest speakers and are open to the public.

Knight said the season of Lent is one of the most important and serious times of the year for Christians.

“We look at the Lenten season as really our journey to the cross itself,” Knight said. “It is a time when all of us are called to look deep inside of us.”