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Just in Time: Lent

Ash Wednesday
Canon Wright

Lent begins next week and many churches have been making their plans for some time. However, if you are still trying to decide how to observe the season, here are some ideas just in time for Lent. I particularly have in mind smaller churches and churches without regular clergy, but these could be used in almost any church. Many thanks to Canon Clark for brainstorming many of these ideas.

Study – new ideas with a group or even solo can be very formative in Lent

  • Book Study – this is an easy way to bring a group together, reading and talking about a book. One option would be Archbishop Justin Welby’s selection for this year, The Way of Life. There are plenty of good options for Lent reading, such as this list from Goodreads (
  • Bible Study – Lent is a great time to focus on the Bible. Taking one book of the Bible and reading it with a group is one way to do it or to look at a topic or theme in multiple books of the Bible. One classic option is to use the Passion narratives from the four Gospels (Matthew 26:36-27:66; Mark 14:32-15:47; Luke 22:39-23:56; John 18:1-19:37) and compare them with each other, as a way to prepare for Holy Week and Easter.

Service - Lenten disciplines can be shaped to serve others in the name of Christ.

  • Green Lenten discipline – you may want to make creation care part of your Lenten practice. What are some ways that you can live more “green,” using less energy, reducing your carbon footprint. This could involve choosing mass transit over driving more often, being more intentional about recycling, doing an energy audit of your church or your home.
  • SNAP diet – using the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly called Food Stamps) as a guide for your own eating – and then donating the amount you would have spent on food to a charitable agency. Or you could donate what you would have spent on food during any kind of food fasting.
  • Volunteering – contact your local charitable agencies to see what help they can use.

Worship – we have distinctive opportunities for prayer and worship prayer during Lent.

  • Ash Wednesday without clergy – If you don’t have a deacon or priest, the Book of Common Prayer provides an option for a lay person to lead the Ash Wednesday service. A sample bulletin is available here as a guide.
  • Ashes to Go – many churches take imposition of ashes out into the world. Consider including a small flyer with a little information about your church and upcoming services, as well as a brief explanation about the meaning of imposing ashes – that it’s a sign of repentance and a reminder of our own mortality. Maybe include the Invitation to a holy Lent (BCP 264), Psalm 51 (BCP 266) or the Litany of Penitence (BCP 267). This can be done by lay ministers.
  • The Way of the Cross – this is a popular Lenten practice in many places. Our service for this is in The Book of Occasional Services and can be led by a lay minister.
  • Children’s Liturgies – Many churches will bury the Alleluia or place it in a locked box for the season of Lent, recovering it on Easter. Ash Wednesday can also be adapted for children as can the Way of the Cross, by making the services more directly engaging through hands on experience. Feel free to contact me to find out more about that.

Lent is a great time to focus on learning more about who God is in our lives and who we are to God. It’s never too late to help church members enter into that holy season. Please contact me or Canon Clark if you want to brainstorm some additional ideas.