2017 COMMUNITY LENTEN WORSHIP SCHEDULE
Wednesday, March 8
Where: St. Michael’s Catholic, 1440 Pearce Circle, Gainesville.
Preacher: Isaac Whitehead of First Baptist on Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd.
Choir: First Baptist Church on Green Street
Wednesday, March 15
Where: Gainesville First United Methodist, 2780 Thompson Bridge Road, Gainesville
Preacher: Cynthia Park of Grace Episcopal Church
Choir: Antioch Baptist Church
Wednesday, March 22
Where: First Baptist Church on Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd., 1810 MLK, Gainesville
Preacher: Lee Koontz of First Presbyterian Church
Choir: Gainesville First United Methodist
Wednesday, March 29
Where: Grace Episcopal Church, corner of Washington Street and Boulevard, Gainesville
Preacher: Scott Hearn of Gainesville First United Methodist
Choir: St. John Baptist Church
Wednesday, April 5
Where: First Presbyterian, 800 S. Enota Drive NE, Gainesville
Preacher: Jaime Barona of St. Michael’s Catholic Church
Choir: St. Paul United Methodist Church on Washington Street
Wednesday, April 12
Where: St. John Baptist Church, 757 EE Butler Parkway, Gainesville
Preacher: Bill Coates of First Baptist Church on Green Street and Stuart Higginbotham of Grace Episcopal Church
Choir: First Presbyterian Church
All services will begin at noon.
It rarely happens. But when it does, it is notable.
As motorists drove by a procession last year on Good Friday marking the Stations of the Cross in Gainesville, they parked their cars and joined the event.
“It’s one of those things, when you get around the high holy days, they have sort of cultural connections,” said the Rev. Cynthia Park of Grace Episcopal Church. “You sort of morph from the pure religious observance to watered-down observances, and this still has some sort of religious symbolism to them.”
And the beginning of a religious season is nearing. The end is Easter, which celebrates Jesus’ resurrection. It is Sunday, April 16.
The start of the season is Lent, which begins Wednesday. And in the spirit of bringing Christians together at this time, a community worship program has again been adopted by several area churches.
Each Wednesday in Lent, a noon service will be offered at various churches throughout Gainesville. It includes a scripture reading, a brief sermon and hymn singing. An offering will be taken and donated to Good News Clinics, which provides free medical and dental care to uninsured Hall County residents who cannot afford health care.
Different preachers and choirs from area churches will deliver a message and sing songs at venues other than their home churches.
For example, Isaac Whitehead of First Baptist Church on Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard. will preach Wednesday at St. Michael’s Catholic Church. The choir from First Baptist will sing, too.
Park said the community Lenten worship services allows Christians to meet other congregants from different denominations.
“We get to hear different music we wouldn’t normally hear,” she said. “We get to see inside each other’s churches. When else are you going to get to do that? It’s kind of fun to go into these other churches.”
The Rev. Bill Coates of First Baptist Church off Green Street said learning other’s traditions strengthens him as a Christian. He said some religions have become divisive, whereas it should foster a desire to approach God.
“We’re more interested in having loving relationships for each other and coming together on what we agree on.”
The community Lenten worship services are a communitywide effort for Christians to celebrate high holy days together instead of separately.
“It’s a chance for us to quit being denominational and for us to be church with a capital ‘C’ instead of our little denominational differences,” Park said. “It gets us meeting each other. And the people really look forward to it year after year.”
She pointed out not all denominations observe Lent. The most well-known who do are Catholics and Episcopalians.
“In Gainesville, we’re very fortunate, though, because we have a very strong group of ecumentical churches,” she said. “Because of our strong ecumenism around the high holy days that we all observe, such as Christmas and Easter, more Protestant churches participate with us in some festivals or seasons that only we observe.”
Lent starts Wednesday and is a time for people to prepare their hearts to participate in the resurrection of Jesus Christ, Park said.
Historically, the faithful follow certain practices such as fasting or abstaining from certain foods, parties or celebrations.
“Traditionally Lent is about people giving something up in order to have a more sober and mindful attitude,” Park said. “It’s not meant to punish people.”
Lent is a time for Christians to rid themselves of distractions in their lives and think about what it means to be a disciple.
“For some people, it means giving up something,” Park said. “For some people, it means to take something on. Some people will read their Bibles every day or take on a burden ... in order to remind them that it is costly to be a disciple.”
Lent concludes with holy week before Easter, when churches will hold community services.
On Maundy Thursday, a foot-washing service will be held at First Baptist, 751 Green Street NW, in Gainesville. Maundy comes from a Latin word meaning “command.”
In the days before his death, Jesus commanded his disciples to love one another as he loved them. He then washed their feet.
Then on Good Friday, the area churches will present the Stations of the Cross along Green Street on April 14.
Participants walk the three-fourths of a mile from Grace Episcopal to First Baptist, stopping along the way to observe 14 stations. The stations are symbolic to the places on Jesus’ journey from trial to his crucifixion to the tomb.
In its inaugural year, organizers expected only about 30 participants but nearly 300 showed. Hundreds are expected this year to mark the day of Jesus’ death with his resurrection to follow three days later.
No matter the denomination, Christians accept the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
“Those are the things we all agree on,” Coates said.