The Season of Lent: Lenten Practices at St. John’s
“Come, come whoever you are. Wanderer, worshipper, lover of leaving. It doesn’t matter. Ours is not a caravan of despair. Come, even if you have broken your vows a thousand times. Come, yet again, come. – Jalaluddin Rumi (13th century Persian mystic and poet)
The season of Lent is our time, as Christians, to return; to practice and reflect on the ways in which we have strayed a bit from living fully into God’s Love. We begin with Ash Wednesday as we are invited to the observance of a holy Lent and to rend our hearts, beginning the spiritual work of unburdening ourselves from the concerns we carry and that keep us from love. Lent begins on Wednesday, February 17 and ends with our celebration of Easter in early April.
Because this past year has been one of great challenge and difficulty, we are individually and collectively carrying quite a bit of anxiety, worry, guilt, and grief. This reminds us that it’s not always personal mistakes or “sin” that get in the way of God’s Love, but sometimes it’s simply the pain of being in the world during very difficult times or in very difficult situations. So, our Lenten practices this year will be focused less on fasting or personal development and more on the invitation to lighten our load.
Ash Wednesday Services: We will have our Ash Wednesday prayer services over Zoom at 12:15 pm and 7:00 pm. Due to the pandemic, there will be no imposition or distribution of ashes so that we can focus on the intent of this holy day which is the invitation to a holy Lent by bringing all that is on our hearts to God. Click here for the bulletin and the link.
Ash Wednesday Prayer Fire: This year, for our community outreach, instead of Ashes-to-Go, we will offer a Prayer Fire on the front lawn of St. John’s from 4:00 – 6:30 pm. Those who desire, may stop for a few moments and offer up to God the burdens they are carrying on their heart. Rev. Michelle will be present to hold the space of prayer and tend to the fire. All are welcome.
Lenten Worship: Our Lenten worship is always marked by a sense of solemnity as we remove “Alleluias” from our worship and the addition of silence to allow for reflection and contemplation. It’s challenging sometimes to allow for silence, especially over Zoom, but you’ll notice a significant effort to support silent prayer and reflection with more space between each element of our worship.
Lenten Questions: To support the practice of silence, we will shift our focus after worship and offer a quieter space. For the season of Lent, instead of “virtual coffee hour,” we will have a light-hearted Lenten Reflection Question each week to practice listening deeply and giving space for all to participate.
Lenten Fun and Games: We have always enjoyed coming together for St. John’s Game Night during the winter. In lieu of this, we’re inviting everyone to join in a season-long game called Lent Madness. Each day during Lent, two saints of the church “face off” in a competition for our vote. We learn the stories of these saints and cast our vote, along with others across the country, until one saint wins the “Golden Halo.” Each week, Rev. Michelle will offer a video recap with special guest commentators. In order to receive emails and be able to vote, visit the Lent Madness website here.
Questions? Please contact Rev. Michelle at email@example.com
Tending Our Light
Our weekly offering of goodness to help keep our spirits buoyed and our mental health on track through the darker months of winter.
One way of tending to our own light is to spend time listening to how young people are learning to tend to their own light.
Grace Year is a program supported and developed by Grace Episcopal Church in Millbrook, NY in which students at Vassar are invited to spend a year away from their studies to learn while living in intentional community with other young people and serving in various social or justice programs in the region. One of our regular supply priests, the Rev. Alison Quin, works with these young people as their program director. And, this year, we have a Grace Year fellow named Dardan Ukaj doing his service work with Angel Food East while he also develops a communications plan for St. John’s.
All of the fellows are doing a fundraiser for Grace Year this coming Sunday – a Valentine’s Day Concert. And you’re invited! Of course, we cannot be in the same physical space so this concert will be held over Zoom. Join us on Sunday, February 14 from 7:00-8:00 for this concert to benefit this wonderful program. Click here for tickets.
Vacations, Retreats, and Rest
Dear Ones: A few weeks ago, I wrote to you that I was reading a new book called Sacred Rest. I’ve been reading through the first couple of chapters and Dr. Dalton-Smith has a list of rest solutions that do not work. I was surprised to see that “vacations” are on the list of things that do not provide the rest we think they do.
But when I think about it, I realize the truth of this. Often times, vacations require a lot from us – making arrangements, getting from one place to another, packing, unpacking, being in an unfamiliar space. This is especially true when we’re visiting family.
Still, there is something to be said for being away from our day-to-day lives and removing the typical responsibilities we carry. We know from scripture that Jesus would spend time away from the disciples to be in prayer, for example. While being on retreat is not the same thing as being on vacation, what is true is that being “away” enables us to gain some perspective. It quiets the noise of our lives and provides some sense of rest from what can bring us anxiety in our daily lives, helping us to approach our lives with more gratitude and focus.
But in the midst of this pandemic, especially during the winter months, this is extremely challenging. Sometimes, I realize that I’m so focused on what life will be like “when this is all over,” imagining where I’ll be able to go that I cannot go now, that I’m not paying attention to what’s happening right in front of me. But I also have to acknowledge just how difficult all this is. We have coping mechanisms for a reason, because there are times (like these) in which we find ourselves using them, even despite our best efforts not too.
So, perhaps the most important thing I’m coming to, as I reflect on rest, is an invitation to rest from self-judgment. Not always easy. But let us begin our journey into Lent with as much compassion for ourselves as we can. Only then can we truly offer compassion to others.
In God’s love and mine, Rev. Michelle
Announcements for February 14, 2021
Lenten Fun and Games: Lent Madness
This year, we need a little levity and silliness. So all the members of St. John’s are invited to participate in Lent Madness. We start on Thursday, February 18 so sign up now and get ready! What is Lent Madness? (yes, like March Madness) Lent Madness has a straightforward format: 32 saints are placed into a tournament-like single elimination bracket. Each pairing remains open for a set period of time and people vote for their favorite saint. 16 saints make it to the Round of the Saintly Sixteen; eight advance to the Round of the Elate Eight; four make it to the Faithful Four; two to the Championship; and the winner is awarded the coveted Golden Halo. The first round consists of basic biographical information about each of the 32 saints. Things get a bit more interesting in the subsequent rounds as we offer quotes and quirks. How do I play? Sign up to receive a daily email or follow the Lent Madness page on Facebook. Each day you’ll be encouraged to vote in a match-up of one saint versus another. Rev. Michelle will be following the Lent Madness posts, tracking on a poster-sized scorecard, and offering regular commentary via Facebook Live. Here’s where you can learn more and sign up to participate: Lent Madness
Ash Wednesday: February 17
Ash Wednesday Services via Zoom at 12:15 pm and 7:00 pm. Look for link and bulletin here: Online Streaming Worship – St. John’s Kingston. There will be no imposition or distribution of ashes due to the pandemic.
Prayer Fire: Rend your heart – 4:00-6:30 pm
As we begin our Lenten season, come to our Prayer Fire and rend your heart. All are invited to come and stay for a few moments at our Prayer Fire and offer to God the burdens lying on your heart. Park along the street or in the driveway near the front lawn. Please wear a mask and keep your 6 ft. distance from others. Rev. Michelle will be present between 4:00-6:30 pm tending the fire and praying along with all those who come.
Clothing Shed is open again! Yes, the clothing shed in our parking lot is open again. Please let everyone know that they can drop off clothing and housewares (textiles only!). Everything needs to be in a sealed bag and every bit helps to raise money for St. John’s.
Friday Bible Study We’ve moved from our study of the creation story in Genesis to a study of Jesus’ miracles. Come on Friday mornings at 9:00 am, bring your coffee, and join a group committed to delving deep into scripture. We ask the hard questions as we uncover how scripture speaks to our lives today. Every Friday morning at 9:00 am via Zoom. Email Rev. Michelle for more information or just join us via the Zoom link found here: Online Streaming Worship – St. John’s Kingston
The Page Turners meets on the first Tuesday of every month. The book for March 2 is “Hamnet,” by Maggie O’Farrell. Speak to Lynn Dennison for more information. All are welcome!
Forward Day by Day: If you would like a Forward Day by Day – scripture and reflection for the months of February, March, and April – please contact Rev. Michelle either by phone or email and we’ll get one out to you!
Have an announcement?
Please send by Wednesday at noon to firstname.lastname@example.org.