Lent has begun and many people in Gainesville observed the start of the Christian holiday by attending Ash Wednesday services on March 6.
The 40 days, not including Sunday, between Ash Wednesday and Holy Saturday — the day before Easter — are meant to be a time of preparation through fasting, prayer and repentance as April 21 draws near.
“The early church felt like you couldn’t just rush into Good Friday and Easter,” said the Rev. Scott Hearn of Gainesville First United Methodist Church. “It required a season of preparation … so they set aside the 40 days before Easter as a season of reflection.”
Some churches around Gainesville — St. Michael Catholic, Grace Episcopal, St. Paul United Methodist, First Presbyterian and Gainesville First United Methodist — come together each Wednesday to reflect during the Lenten season through community services. Each service includes a time of prayer, hymns, meditation and a short message focusing on a different issue addressing poverty.
“I think this year we were kind of searching for something more reflective of everything this community does,” said the Rev. Lee Koontz, senior pastor at First Presbyterian Church.
Koontz said the churches would highlight the work of the United Way of Hall County, whose One Hall campaign has driven collaboration among nonprofits, health, housing and educational partners to counter the poverty experienced by nearly 27,000 county residents.
Koontz said that it’s important for Christians to support those in the community working to break generational cycles of poverty.
“It’s an issue that’s as close to the heart of the gospel and the Christian faith as anything else,” he added. “It’s very clear that those of us who follow Jesus and seek to worship God through the way we live our lives, we are expected to be engaged with those who are experiencing poverty.”
The services begin at noon — lasting about 30 minutes — and are open to the public. Lunch is provided following each service and $5 is suggested as a donation.
Community Lenten service schedule
St. Paul United Methodist Church
When: Noon, March 13
Where: 404 Washington St., Gainesville
Topic: Breaking the cycle of Poverty, Phillippa Moss
Grace Episcopal Church
When: Noon, March 20
Where: 422 Brenau Ave., Gainesville
Topic: Housing, Beth Brown
St. Michael Roman Catholic Church
When: Noon, March 27
Where: 1440 Pearce Circle NE, Gainesville
Topic: Health, Jamie Reynolds and Kay Blackstock
First Presbyterian Church
When: Noon, April 3
Where: 800 S. Enota Drive NE, Gainesville
Topic: Education, Merrianne Dyer
Gainesville First United Methodist Church
When: Noon, April 10
Where: 2780 Thompson Bridge Road, Gainesville
Topic: Coordinated, Cooperative and Committed, Joy Griffin