Lent at St. Stephen's
The forty days of Lent are a time when Christians join Jesus in the wilderness. It serves as a time for us to return to the Sacred Presence, to the God who has never left us, even though at times we have left God. Lent is a time to renew classic disciplines of prayer, fasting, and almsgiving (all done in secret), as a way of returning to our true life. All of this is designed to renew a right spirit within us and to prepare us for a deeper appreciation of Jesus’ passion (what he was most passionate about), his death, and ultimately his resurrection at Easter.
Lent always begins with “Ash Wednesday,” a time to step off the treadmill of our busy lives and consider again what is most important. The traditional worship for this day can be especially powerful and calls for the “imposition of ashes.” During this service, you are invited to come forward to receive the imprint of ashes on your forehead, as a sign of your mortality and your dependence on God. In this stark way, we are put in mind of the difference between those things that are passing away and those things that endure, and we recommit ourselves to that which endures.
This year Ash Wednesday falls on March 6. Three Ash Wednesday services will be held in the main church:
- 7:30 a.m.
- 5:30 p.m.*
*Child care will be available during the noon and 5:30 p.m. services.
Most regular events, including Morning Prayer, Evensong, the Wonderful Wednesdays supper, and youth groups will not take place on Ash Wednesday. If you are not sure if your small group will be meeting that day, please check with your leader or convener.
Special offerings for Lent
The following groups, retreats and speakers will be offered in Lent 2019. Full descriptions and registration links are available here.
The Middle Way
Sundays, March 3-31 // 6:45-7:45 p.m.
The Rev. Robert Chesnut
Fasting as a Lenten practice
Introductory session: Monday, March 4 // 7 p.m.
The Rev. Claudia Merritt
The Gift of Humility
Saturday, March 9, 2019 // 9 a.m.-noon
Br. David Vryhof, SSJE
A Lenten Reawakening: Donne, Herbert, and Browne
Sundays in the Forum, March 17, 24, 31 // 10:10 a.m.
Dr. Gardner Campbell, associate professor of English, Virginia Commonwealth University
“Dante: A Journey to Hope and Healing”
Friday, April 12, and Saturday, April 13, 2019
Seasons of the Spirit
The Lent/Easter edition of Seasons of the Spirit, our quarterly publication, has been mailed to St. Stephen's households. Free copies are available at Information Central and throughout the parish house, and an electronic edition is available here.
The Bookshop @ St. Stephen's offers prayer books, Bibles, theological classics, devotional books and more. It is open during office hours (Monday-Friday, 8:30 a.m.-4:30 p.m.) and on Sunday mornings.
St. Paul's Wednesday Preaching Series // St. Paul's Episcopal Church across from Capitol Square has held a well-known preaching series since 1897 that takes place during Lent. Beginning this year, the services will take place on Wednesdays only. They also serve lunch before and after these daily services with proceeds supporting St. Paul's outreach grants. You can read more about St. Paul's Lenten Preaching Series on their Web site.
Monastic wisdom // The Brothers of the Society of St. John the Evangelist, an Episcopal religious order for men, offer free monthly emails (sign up here), and a prayer journal for Lent which you may print free from their Web site or purchase at nominal cost from Amazon. The SSJE Web site offers many other resources, including sermons.
The Good Book Club // Forward Movement (publisher of Forward Day by Day and other books and resources) is offering “The Good Book Club” for Lent and Eastertide. It follows the Gospel according to Luke and the Book of Acts, providing daily readings and related materials. The Good Book Club is not meant to replace our study of the Gospel of Mark (the one being read in the Sunday Lectionary and the Daily Office), but as another resource, using these companion books of the Bible in the same way you might select a book for your book club. Read more and sign up here.
Forward Day by Day // Also from Forward Movement, copies of Forward Day by Day (small booklets daily devotions based on the lectionary) are available for purchase in the parish office ($1 each). A selection of Forward Movement books is available in our bookshop.
As solemn as Lent is, it's also OK to leaven your observance with a bit of fun, and again, Forward Movement has something for you. "Lent Madness" (inspired by "March Madness" and the NCAA basketball tournaments) pits 32 saints against each other in a bracket, as each saint seeks to win the coveted Golden Halo. Throughout Lent, fans vote for their favorite saints at www.lentmadness.org. You can follow Lent Madness on Facebook and Twitter to stay up-to-date.
The Daily Office
Though Daily Morning Prayer and Evensong are offered year-round at St. Stephen's Church, Lent can be an especially appropriate time to begin the practice of regularly attending one or both of these services from the Book of Common Prayer. Each lasts about 30 minutes and takes place in the Chapel of the Holy Spirit (the side chapel closest to Grove Avenue) every weekday except when the parish office is closed.
Morning Prayer (followed by communion from the reserved sacrament) begins at 8:10 a.m. Many people like to gather in the cafe area next to the Large Fellowship Hall after this service to enjoy coffee and conversation before leaving for work or other commitments.
Evensong is the service of Evening Prayer from the Book of Common Prayer, with the psalms and other parts of the service being sung. This half-hour service begins at 5:30 p.m. On Wednesdays, the service is led by the Virginia Girls Choir and is followed by our midweek parish supper.
If you cannot be present for these weekday services, you may wish to say them on your own at home; the Daily Office begins on page 36 in the Book of Common Prayer.