Lent is a solemn season for Christians, a time for penance and the relinquishing of desire, which is often marked through fasting and the giving of alms.
And for a group of five Gainesville churches, lent is a time to come together in fellowship through service and shared meals.
This year, the churches will host luncheons each Wednesday between now and Easter Sunday, April 21, with worship, sermons and discussion focused on raising awareness about poverty in Hall County.
“I think this year we were kind of searching for something more reflective of everything this community does,” said Rev. Lee Koontz, senior pastor at First Presbyterian Church.
Gainesville First United Methodist, St. Michael Catholic, Grace Episcopal and St. Paul United Methodist churches will join Koontz’s church in hosting these Lenten gatherings.
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.
The lunches are open to the general public.
These ecumenical partnerships among the churches, Koontz said, serve “as our response to the good news.”
“I think that excites people,” he added. “People come for that reason.”
The good news is the resurrection of Christ come Easter, and the promise of forgiveness and spiritual renewal that it brings believers.
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.”
Wednesday Lenten lunches hosted by Gainesville churches
What: Services held to raise awareness about poverty in Hall County
When: Each service begins at noon and is followed by a lunch
- March 13: St. Paul United Methodist Church, 404 Washington St.
- March 20: Grace Episcopal Church, 422 Brenau Ave.
- March 27: St. Michael Catholic Church, 1440 Pearce Circle
- April 3: First Presbyterian Church, 800 S. Enota Drive
- April 10: Gainesville First United Methodist Church, 2780 Thompson Bridge Road