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Community Lenten services get underway after Ash Wednesday
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Grace Episcopal Church holds an Ash Wednesday service Wednesday, March, 6, 2019, at the Gainesville church. - photo by Scott Rogers

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

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