Lent came in on Wednesday with ashes at noon, and in the evening, ashes with soup and bread. We read both the Joel and Isaiah readings, Joel at noon, Isaiah at night, and discussed traditional Lent penances in both services. During the evening worship, which we observed with the Annisquam Village Church, we took time to write down something we wanted to renounce during the season, and something we wanted to strengthen. Each person put their hopes, written on small bits of paper, into a basket on the altar. I was reminded of the story of the feeding of the multiudes, where the “fragments” were gathered up afterwards: such deep desires delivered in such frail vessels, pencil written scraps of paper full of hope and longing.
Thursday, I spent the afternoon at the Grace Center, Inc., our interfaith roving shelter. Grace Center was founded by the Cape Ann interfaith community to meet a growing need in our towns for day space for homeless persons and other people in need. Action, Inc. is our overnight shelter, and they are closed during the day four days a week. We wanted to supplement their offering, and Grace Center opened in December in three different churches within walking distance of Action. We’ve also formed a good partnership with Action and the Cape Ann Food Pantry. On Thursdays, we meet at Trinity Congregational Church. I’ve been going each Thursday since we opened, and have started to form relationships with some of the guests; we have a standing Monopoly game going, which may seem to be dripping with irony considering the context. But those of us who play remember playing it with our families while we waited out snowstorms as kids. Several of the guests have told me they like coming to the churches: it’s a hospitable context, and they feel an “elevation” ( their word) of their souls, just by being in the buildings. I know there’s lots of worried articles being written today about the loss of “church” as we know it, but it seems humans share a fundamental need for holy shelter, for sacred spaces in which to take refuge.
Sunday’s readings may be found here. The Genesis reading relates the “Rainbow Covenant,” God’s promise to humankind after the flood; the Gospel reading recounts Jesus’ baptism, his sojourn in the desert, and the beginning of his ministry. During Lent, perhaps one of your spiritual practices might be to read the lessons for Sunday and pray with them ahead of time. It’s easy to do, and it’s transformative.
Peace, Pastor Anne