Tag Archives: Lent

Colville churches repent for their sins

By Tracy Simmons

COLVILLE — On Sunday two Colville congregations came together to profess that they, as part of the common Christian church, have at times been destructive.

“…We confess that we have sinned in communal ways in accepting and perpetuating the prejudices and injustices that persist in our culture and our world,” more than 125 voices together recited at St. Paul Lutheran Church.

Two Colville congregations worshiped together on the first Sunday of Lent/Tracy Simmons - SpokaneFAVS.com

St. Paul Lutheran and 1st Congregational UCC churches are journeying through Lent together, apologizing for the sins of the Christian church. Rev. Eric Ohrtman, rector of St. Paul, explained that the congregations will repent for how they’ve harmed everyone from the Native Americans hundreds of years ago, to today’s gay and lesbian community, to the times the church has been silent when it should have been a prophetic voice.

Rev. Jim CastroLang, of 1st Congregational, said the confessions are a step toward restoring the church “to its wholeness,” particularly as Christians recognize their iniquities and begin to live more consciously.

Rev. Michael Denton, conference minister for the Pacific Northwest Conference of the United Church of Christ and Bishop Martin Wells, of the Eastern Washington-Idaho Synod, helped the congregations begin their journey by delivering a sermon together on Sunday (which was the first Sunday of Lent).

Rev. Mike Denton speaks in Colville/Tracy Simmons - SpokaneFAVS.com

“Institutions are one of the ways human beings help organize themselves. As such, they can also be one of the ways we express some of our worst characteristics and behaviors as well as one of the ways we benefit from the harmful acts of others. Institutions can be used as walls and weapons as well as a tool to help rationalize some actions, that when it comes down to it, can only be described as sins,” Denton said. “It takes honest, faithful conversations just like this to change the world.”

Both Wells and Denton urged the congregations to own and confess the sins they may not have been directly involved in — like slavery — noting all Christians are a part of the body of Christ.

Two Colville congregations come together during Lent/Tracy Simmons - SpokaneFAVS.com

“I’m anxious for you because I think the work you have in front of you during this Lenten period of confession is difficult.  You are going to be leading the larger church into a territory that we usually avoid,” Wells said. “I’m wonderfully stimulated and grateful to you and I’m eager to know how it goes for you, I’m eager to learn from you and from these good pastors who will lead you.”

St. Paul and 1st Congregational are the only two churches in the area that have teamed up, as separate denominations, to spend Lent together.

Ohrtman explained the congregations will explore a different sin each Sunday during Lent.

View a photo gallery of the communal service here.

What sins do you think the church needs to confess?

VIDEO: Churches called to confess

By Tracy Simmons

COLVILLE — On Sunday two churches in Colville came together to discuss corporate confession. Bishop Martin Wells, of the Eastern Washington-Idaho Synod and the Rev. Michael Denton, conference minister for the Pacific Northwest Conference of the United Church of Christ urged parishioners take time this Lenten season to acknowledge ways the church has caused harm.

View photos of the service here.


GALLERY: Churches host corporate confession

By Tracy Simmons

Rev. Eric Ohrtman prepares for communion in Colville/Tracy Simmons - SpokaneFAVS.com

COLVILLE — On Sunday St. Paul Lutheran Church and 1st Congregational UCC in Colville had a joint service. Together the churches made a corporate confession, acknowledging that the church has caused much pain throughout the decades. Bishop Martin Wells, of the Eastern Washington-Idaho Synod and the Rev. Michael Denton, conference minister for the Pacific Northwest Conference of the United Church of Christ, lead the service along with the Rev. Eric Ohrtman and the Rev. Jim CastroLang.

Check back soon for a video and article on this event.

Meanwhile, enjoy a photo gallery here.

Editor’s Note: Jim CastroLang is a SpokaneFAVS contributor.

Spokane’s Religion News Roundup: Feb. 24

By Tracy Simmons

Rev. Marvin Harada speaks at Buddhist convention/Tracy Simmons - SpokaneFAVS

Since you’re a dedicated SpokaneFAVS reader you already know more than 300 Buddhists swarmed to the city last weekend for the 65th annual Northwest Buddhist Convention. But did you know that it was a convention for Shin Buddhists? Do you even know what a Shin Buddhist is? You can find out next week when the Spokane Buddhist Temple’s Introduction to Jodo Shinshu Buddhism class starts.

Last week Washington became the seventh state to legalize gay marriage. The story’s a week old, but it’s still a hot topic. Actually, it’s scorching. Bishop James E. Waggoner of the Episcopal Diocese of Spokane isn’t shying away from the contentious legislation and said he, “welcome[d] the decision and am grateful that it recognizes the reality of relationships already being lived out faithfully and lovingly. The validation of legal status and related rights, including benefits, is overdue.” You can read about how Waggoner and the state’s other Episcopal bishops getting involved here.

In Catholic news, Bishop Blase Cupich of the Catholic Diocese of Spokane has gotten national attention for his column in America: The National Catholic Weekly. While many bishops are not happy with Obama’s contraception coverage mandate accommodation, Cupich’s been praised for his optimistic outlook and call for civility:

“I believe that an even greater opportunity is before us, namely to have a deeper and on a more prolonged basis a fundamental dialogue about the role of religion in society in general and the nature of religious liberty, especially as it applies to faith-based charitable, health and social service ministries in the United States, in particular. I also believe that the president, relying on his personal experience with church, which he cited once again this week, has not only the potential but also the responsibility to make a significant contribution to this more sustained and expansive discussion.”

Speaking of Catholics, Gonzaga made big news last week when the university announced Archbishop Desmond Tutu (not a Catholic) would be the keynote speaker for the undergraduate commencement ceremony in May. But you better be attached to a graduate if you want to go — space is limited.

Local Lutherans are using this Lenten season as a reminder of the Eastern Washington-Idaho Synod’s commitment to an Anti-Malaria Campaign. You can read Bishop Martin Wells’ Lenten reflection here.

Finally, a shout-out to the Latter-day Sentinel for highlighting the Coeur d’Alene First Ward for their work in fighting homelessness.

Have something you think should be included in next week’s roundup? Email it to tracy.simmons@religionnews.com

Practicing prayer during Lent

By Tracy Simmons

Tracy Simmons

I’m all about deadlines, which is probably why I didn’t decide until this morning what I was going to do for Lent.

Last year I gave up Dr. Pepper. Resisting from carbonated water and artificial flavoring, though, didn’t exactly create more space for God in my life.  Reaching for iced tea instead of soda quickly replaced my Dr. Pepper habit and I didn’t make it very far into the 40 days before I stopped thinking about pop, Lent and Jesus.

Instead of fasting from something during Lent, many people have decided to do something for 40 days — like be kind, participate in a daily good deed, etc. I like this idea, but shouldn’t we be doing these things anyway?

RNS Photo

Lent is still fairly new to me. I didn’t go to a liturgical church growing up. In fact, I didn’t even know what liturgy was until I began studying theology as an undergraduate.  Obviously I became a religion reporter and began reporting on Ash Wednesday and the Lenten season. I was probably in my mid-20s when I realized how much I relished this theology I had been writing about: ashes — the bodily reminder that our time on this earth is impermanent; and the 40-day fast — a way to replicate Jesus’ resisting temptation. The symbolism in this Christian tradition is something people of all faiths can appreciate.

I’ve thought about this a lot the past few days. I don’t want to do something simply because it’s tradition. Whatever I decided to do for Lent needed to enhance my spiritual life. For me, giving up something isn’t the way to go. Maybe I’m not disciplined enough for that. Seeing a Dr. Pepper isn’t going to make me think about my faith. I’m not going to miss the beverage so much that I replace that emptiness with devotion. Some people can do that and I admire them.

So I began to think more about this 40 days of kindness thing (which seemed really popular last year). Yes, of course, we should be nice to all people all the time. But we aren’t are we?

Buddhists meditate and constantly work on disciplining their mind. They call this ‘practice,’ which is so appropriate. Every day I attempt to become a better journalist, I exercise my mind and body and I try to be a good person. It’s all practice. I’m never going to be a perfect human being, but I can, and should, keep trying to be.

Some scientists say it takes more than 40 days to create a habit. According to UK Health Behaviore Research Centre , it takes 66 days to develop a habit. The organization reports, “If we can do something for 66 days straight, we can do it for a year, five, or 30.  Twenty one or 28 days seems to be just enough time to make it questionable, or make you confident but not be able to stick to it.”

So this Lenten season I’m going to try to resuscitate and an old habit. I’m going to use this time to transform my prayer life. I’m going to talk to God for 40 days, which will hopefully turn into 66 days, and then a year, etc. In the end, if I can be as disciplined as Jesus was in the desert, then prayer will become a vital part of my daily life.

And, lucky for me, I have plenty of cues ahead of me if I begin to stumble. Ramadan begins in July. This is when Muslims fast for 30 days. The Jewish holiday of Yom Kippur is in September, which is when Jews fast for 25 hours. It doesn’t matter if I’m Christian, Muslim or Jewish — all sacred calendars can be reminders of the decision I made today, to pray daily.

You can find out how SpokaneFAVS panelists view Lent here.

Fat Tuesday; “Catholic” Glenn Beck; Southern Baptists’ name

By David Gibson
Religion News Service

Lent started a couple days early for the ESPN editor who wrote a headline about Knicks phenom Jeremy Lin that recalled an ethnic slur against Chinese.

Anthony Federico, 28, was fired on Sunday for the gaffe, which he said had no racist intent. “ESPN did what they had to do,” said Federico who, like Lin, is a devout Christian.

“My faith is my life,” Federico told The Daily News. “I’d love to tell Jeremy what happened and explain that this was an honest mistake.”

Speaking of J-Lin, his pastor tells the WaPo what he’s really like. It’s all good, don’t worry.

New York archbishop Timothy Dolan, who was the “rock star” of the Vatican consistory that created 22 new cardinals, may need a bit of self-denial: he fell off the diet wagon while in Rome, and now can’t take off the new gold ring Pope Benedict XVI gave him on Saturday.

Read full post here.

From your faith perspective, what does Lent meant to you? What are you giving up?

By Tracy Simmons

Lent begins this week, which means Christians are entering a sacred season. Many Protestants and Catholics (not all) recognize this time by giving up something for 40 days as a way to remember the 40 days Jesus fasted in the desert. The season begins with Ash Wednesday and concludes with Easter.

You can view local Shrove Tuesday, Ash Wednesday and Lent listings here.

We asked our panelists what Lent means to them.

From your faith lens, what’s the significance of Lent? What will you be giving up and why?

Sr. Teresa Jackson

Our life should be a continuous Lent.  Is that a scary thought?  I have to admit the idea tends to give me the heebie jeebies.  Lent often seems to be overlaid with a lot of artificial asceticism and guilt and these are not characteristics I want to characterize my life.  But I am a Benedictine sister and in the Benedictine Rule which we follow Benedict said the life of a monk should be a continuous Lent.  Fortunately the idea isn’t quite as off-putting as it first sounds.

In the 6th century St. Benedict of Nursia wrote a guidebook for people wanting to live a life focused on God.  This guidebook, “The Rule of Benedict,” was intended for monks living together in community and is still the guidebook followed by monks and nuns today, but also by people living outside traditional monasteries who are finding it a source of deep wisdom.

He devotes one entire chapter to the observance of Lent.  And while he does strongly urge giving up something for Lent, he also says something very interesting about why we should do this.  The purpose is to, “look forward to Easter with joy and holy longing”  (RB 49:7).  Now there’s an interesting concept, Lent is about joy and holy longing, and not guilt.  Frankly that’s a relief because giving up things often just leads to failure and guilt.  Instead, Benedict implies that the extra disciplines are simply designed to sharpen my sense of anticipation, of deep longing to experience the transformative power of God in my life.  Lent is like anticipating a big event by marking off days on a calendar knowing that something wonderful is coming.

The practices of Lent are reminders that Easter is not simply a given, it is not something we can take for granted or be complacent about.  By setting aside Lent as a sacred, anticipatory time we will experience Easter as the always new, always unmerited, always transforming gift of God’s grace in our lives.  So perhaps whether or not I even try to give up something this Lent the practice and the anticipation will be about joy and longing.

Sr. Teresa Jackson

Lace Williams-Tinajero

On the corner of Hayden and Maple in Hayden Lake, Idaho, in a little log cabin in a grassy field, my first memories of Lent were formed. Years passed and things changed at St. Mark’s Lutheran Church. A paved parking lot replaced the grassy field where we kids once ran and played. A contemporary gray structure, large enough for sharing the space with a Presbyterian church, was built around the brown cabin, which is the fellowship hall today.

What never changed was the ritual of Lent. It began every year on Ash Wednesday. “From dust you came, to dust you shall return,” the pastor would say while marking each forehead with the sign of the cross in ashes. During the season of Lent, the time between Ash Wednesday and Holy Week, worshipers gathered inside the cozy cabin every Wednesday evening for the Lenten soup supper and service. Lent was a time for reflection and repentance. We sang only somber hymns like “Were You There” and “Ah Holy Jesus.” I was well acquainted with the communal aspect of Lent in gathering every Wednesday evening.

Fasting was another matter, a private one that no one talked about. Not until I left home and entered Bible College in my 20s did I start fasting during Lent. Each year since then I give up something that requires self-control, effort, or sacrifice. Sweets, junk food, gossiping are among the top contenders. Some years I take something on, whether it be daily exercise or reading Scripture or prayer. Certain insights in the form of questions arise for me only during the season of Lent. To what extent does guilt factor into my choice to fast? How does piety differ from being self-focused? Do my theological reasons to fast match my experience of it? To participate in Lent is to journey with Jesus to the cross, to embrace vulnerability by giving up something, by letting go.

Lace Williams-Tinajero

Ernesto Tinajero

“So, what are you giving for Lent?,” Norm asked one Sunday after Ash Wednesday. I have known Norm, an old-time religion type of guy, since we joining the church.

“I gave up chocolate,” I answered and then took a bite of my chocolate cake. Of course, he looked at me with an aghast expression, as if I had told him how the movie “Bambi” had made me want to be hunter.

I explained that I follow the older form of Lenten fast. On Sundays, Christians are allowed to have what they have given up. Sundays are the mini Easters that we remember Jesus has given us new lives. That is why Lent last 46 days and not 40. It’s 40 days of fasting and six days of celebrating the gifts that God gave us. Norm did not like this answer. He thought somehow I was cheating. Giving up chocolate for Lent should mean giving it up the whole season.

Lent is a season of repentance, which usually means for us to feel bad for our wayward ways, how mean we have been to others and that we should take stock of our own failings. From this perspective my enjoying chocolate seemed like I was cheating the system. I was having my cake and eating it too, so to speak. The problem is that view is mistaken on the nature of repentance. To repent means  turning to God, not evaluating our shortcomings. True, turning to God will remind us how unworthy we are to approach God, but this a result of turning to God and not the purpose. The true purpose is to draw closer to God. In Lent, we are asked to give up something we enjoy to feel in a very tiny way what God gave up to be with us. The relationship that God makes with us in Jesus cost the cross.

Many times Lent is used as an expression for us to display our self-control and give up a bad habit like smoking or fried food. Such goals, while admirable, miss the point of Lenten fast of drawing close to God. Repenting means not feeling bad but preparing for God’s new life in Easter. Each Sunday is not an excuse for me to eat enough chocolate to carry me through to next Sunday, but to understand how much God has given me and how much it has cost God. During the week, when I see chocolate, it reminds me of Jesus. Throughout my Lenten fast, I find that my thoughts turn more and more toward the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus. In a Lenten fast, I learn not that I am strong, but that  I am weak and he is strong.

This year, I am giving red meat. Anyone who knows me knows that I love beef. This love of beef will remind me, in a small way, how much love God has for me. I will turn to God and encounter him in a deeper way. Here lies the wisdom of the Lenten fast.

– Ernesto Tinajero

Pastor Eric Blauer

“But since they don’t have deep roots, they don’t last long” ~ Jesus, Mark 4:17

I’ve been a follower of Jesus since I was 15 years old. I am 41 now and during all that time as a church member in Evangelical and Charismatic churches, I was never introduced to the historic practices of Christian liturgy. Most of my understanding of words like Lent, Ash Wednesday, Advent or Liturgy were usually associated with other words like liberal, ritual, formalism, legalism which always meant ‘dead or dying’ religion.

As a Protestant, it seems we have always been protesting something and that posture often ends up isolating many sincere and impressionable people from their brothers and sisters in other families with the Christian faith. In attempts to fence out heretics and their heresies we’ve forgotten how to build gates that open between homes. We’ve become Christian gated communities and only those with the ‘keys and codes’ are able to enter or in some cases even welcome. The 20,000 plus denominational/sect branches off the Jesus tree have begun to choke out the fruitfulness of the ancient planting of the Lord (Matt. 13:32). It’s probably time to prune the tree and clear out the feeders that suck the sap from the healthier limbs that have born much fruit. As a church planter, or church ‘splinterer,’ I can testify to the challenges and weaknesses of this path. Dead formalism is a real problem in the church. There are many churches that have a form of godliness but deny the power (2 Tim. 3:5) but we must be careful to not cut down the tree, without giving the gift and grace of time (Luke 13:7). Stereotypes often have seeds of truth within them and I have walked with people as they have sought to pry off the barnacles of fossilized faith that hardened over their souls in many different mainline traditions. But I have also experienced and witnessed the ache of ‘rootless’ faith in all the break off churches as well. There’s a thinness to much of our Evangelical religious life and more and more seekers are longing for a faith that has it’s roots in a more tested and ancient past then in the latest generational or cultural phase.

Instead of formalism many long for deeper Christian spiritual formation. Not the pop spirituality, quasi-Christian versions that leave the soul feeling desperately anemic. The fluff and flurry of many modern churches leave many longing for a robust and rich spirituality that seems hard to grasp among the tired theatrics, soulless technology and market driven protectionism that plagues many Evangelical circles.

As a 6-year-old church in a neighborhood where business turnover is almost a monthly experience and a renter culture is dominant, the need for a greater sense of presence and permanence lay under the surface of all the instability of our community. Homes and families are broken up by noncommittal relationships and pleasure-driven hookups.  Single parenthood is the norm and high mobility leaves most relationships painfully shallow.

As a church we face the same temptations Jesus faced in the desert. There is always the desire to craft what we think is needed for the moment. It’s a missional malaise that drives consumerism in our ‘never enough’ culture. The new is always in danger of the newest and the same sickness is at work in our faith communities. The desire to climb to the pinnacles of visibility and popularity lurk in the shadows of church leaders hearts and minds. The pressure to bow to this present darkness and grant our worship to another who offers all that this world values, is a very real battle going on in the church.

All of these themes are historically mediated upon in Lent and as a church that is growing and struggling to form our own sense of tradition, we find the need to be grafted into the stock of the church more and more. Instead of trying to say something new and improved we are longing to echo what has been true from ages past. This Easter season, I hope that we will be able to reintroduce and introduce Christians in our circles to the thinking and practices of the greater historic church, not as kitsch but as an attempt to honor, recollect, celebrate and worship.

So for many of us, this means we will participate in an Ash Wednesday service for the very first time this Lent. I look forward to stepping back into a stream of practice that has flowed for thousands of years and lead others in these small steps of returning.

So then, brothers, stand firm and hold to the traditions that you were taught by us, either by our spoken word or by our letter (2 Thess. 2:15).

Eric Blauer

Rev. Jim CastroLang

We are broken from our natural state which is an interactive connectedness to all creation.  We are descendents of the Big Bang, formed from the stardust of the universe — meant to live growing into this intimate connection with this love creation.  Lent is a time to remember where we came from and who we are.  In this remembering, we acknowledge our brokenness, reorienting our intention to live as we were made.  We seek restoration that can only come from dying to our individualistic and disconnected ways.  In Easter, we celebration in Christ a resurrection in which we can share and have the fullness of life on the earth and beyond.

Giving something up for Lent can be a disciple-like fasting that reminds us that our habits and impulses can drive us away from God and the fullness of life.  I don’t always do this but when I do, it is a discipline of awareness.  One year I tried to give up sarcasm and with my kids monitoring me, I learned that I was being sarcastic even when I thought I wasn’t.  To the extent that we use “giving up” as a means for more conscious living —  it can be a good thing.