Whatever the weather, most Christians will start Lent this week with Ash Wednesday.
On that day, Catholics and many Protestants will receive an ashen cross on their foreheads. It’s to remind them of their own mortality and invite them to seek repentance and introspection.
The 40-day spiritual journey that begins with the starkness of Ash Wednesday will end with the joy of Easter (April 5), when these Christians will celebrate Jesus’ resurrection from the dead.
Lent has been observed by Catholics, Orthodox Christians and many mainline Protestants for centuries. Some evangelical Christians, who long considered Lent non-biblical, have in recent years also adopted the fasting and the ashes that come with this season of Easter preparation.
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For members of Eastern Orthodox churches, including the Greek Orthodox, the season called Great Lent will begin this year on Feb. 23 with Clean Monday. They will celebrate Easter, or Pascha, on April 12.
In Charlotte, some churches have special ways of marking Ash Wednesday this week.
▪ For the third year in a row, St. Peter’s Episcopal Church in uptown will accommodate busy Charlotteans by offering “Ashes to Go.” The Rev. Ollie Rencher, the church’s rector, and others will administer ashes on the sidewalk outside the church entrance, at the corner of North Tryon and West Seventh streets, during the following times Wednesday: 8:15-9 a.m.; 11:15-11:45 a.m.; 4:15-4:45 p.m.; and 6:15-6:45 p.m.
▪ Churches in Charlotte’s Elizabeth neighborhood will kick off their sixth annual Lenten series on Wednesday at noon at Caldwell Presbyterian Church, 1609 E. Fifth St. Each Lenten Wednesday through April 1, the service will be followed by a $5 lunch of soup and bread served at Caldwell by a nearby restaurant. Proceeds will benefit Loaves & Fishes and the Community Culinary School. The Rev. John Cleghorn, pastor of Caldwell, will give the Ash Wednesday sermon. Other participating churches, whose pastors and chaplains will speak on subsequent Wednesdays, are St. John’s Baptist; Hawthorne Lane United Methodist; St. Martin’s Episcopal; Center City Church; Casita de Amor and the chaplaincy offices at two hospitals, Carolinas Medical Center – Mercy and Novant Health Presbyterian Medical Center. Details: 704-334-0825.
▪ Plaza-Midwood churches are banding together for a similar Lenten series, which will begin at noon on Ash Wednesday at Holy Trinity Lutheran, 1900 The Plaza. A free lunch will follow. Delivering the sermon Wednesday will be the Rev. Nancy Kraft, pastor of Holy Trinity. The subsequent Wednesday services and lunches will also be held at her church, though the speakers will come from the other participating churches: Commonwealth United Methodist, Plaza Presbyterian and The Vine, a United Methodist church. Details: www.htlccharlotte.org.
▪ St. Ann Catholic Church, 3635 Park Road, will begin Ash Wednesday with a 7 a.m. Mass in Latin. Providence United Methodist, 2810 Providence Road, will have a Children’s Ash Wednesday service at 10 a.m.