Lenten Offerings

Introduction:lentclipartLent is a special season developed in the early years of the Christian Church when those who wanted to be baptized used the forty days before Easter for study, prayer, penitence and preparation for being welcomed into membership in the Church. As time went on, the whole Christian community participated in this period as a renewal of their own baptismal promises and as a preparation for the celebration of the Lord’s Resurrection-the climax of the Christian year.As a consequence, it is a season set apart in several different ways: there are liturgical changes, changes in how the church is decorated, there are additional spiritual growth resources made available as well as special events during this holy season to which the faithful are encouraged to participate. It is the whole Church’s responsibility to encourage one another in our growth in Christ and these special and differences in our usual customs and activities are ways of doing that.
Lenten Special Events: mardigrasmasksShrove Tuesday Pancake Supper:This tradition evolved out of trying to get rid of foods not usually eaten during Lent (hence the traditional pancakes). At St. Thomas, after serving Creole jambalaya for several years (from a recipe brought back from New Orleans by our mission teams) returned to the pancake, sausage and applesauce traditional menu this year.  The proceeds go to support mission.

girlwithashesAsh Wednesday: This ancient ritual marks the beginning of Lent with a reminder of our mortality and dependence on God. This service of self-examination, confession and repentance is offered at St. Thomas Church at 7am, 10am and 7pm. It is also offered at the Chapel of UPMC St. Margaret Hospital at noon.

 

 

 

District Two Churches Lenten Series: A few years ago, St. Thomas Church was invited to participate in the Lenten Series sponsored by the East End Episcopal churches (we now are part of the same district in the diocese). Each evening of the series falls on the Tuesday in Lent beginning with a free simple supper at 6pm, followed by a worship service with a guest preacher at 7pm. Watch the home page for information regarding which church will be hosting each particular week.

 

The Way of the Cross: This ancient and simple service, which takes about twenty minutes, traces the fourteen events of last journey of our Lord Jesus Christ, from his condemnation by Pontius Pilate to his being laid in the tomb. It is a service of prayers and short readings but amazingly profound. Guides to praying these prayers can be found on the back table of the church.  They can be offered at any time.

 

sedermealSeder Meal: St. Thomas Church often celebrates a Seder Meal on April 23,  at 5:30pm, to observe the connection between God’s deliverance of his People Israel from slavery in Egypt and his deliverance of all people who come to him from our slavery to sin and death by the cross of Jesus Christ. It is a delicious meal that follows the story of God’s deliverance, along with special foods that mark this mighty work. Bishop Dorsey McConnell will lead the short liturgy of the meal. Tickets are being sold now for this delicious and instructive event, to be held the evening of Sunday, April 23, 2017.

 

 

Holy Week services: Worship is offered in the church every day of our Lord Jesus Christ’s last week in Jerusalem. Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday have simple eucharists at 6pm in the church (Wednesday also has the regular 10am eucharist). Maundy Thursday (the Last Supper where Jesus instituted the sacrament of the eucharist and gave the new command to love one another he loved us), Good Friday (marking the death of our Lord on the cross) and Easter Vigil (on Saturday night before Easter Day) celebrating the defeat of death are ALL held at 7:30pm in the church. Private confessions may be scheduled with any of the clergy by appointment.

 

Lenten Spiritual Growth Resources:Several resources are made available to help people in their Lenten disciplines of prayer. This year we have a devotional booklet, provided by the Episcopal Relief and Development Fund (a fund used for outreach and mission), with short devotions for every day during Lent. There is also the Forward Day by Day, a daily devotional that also lists the daily Scripture readings (we have this all the time). In addition to these, mite boxes are available (for those wishing to make a daily small contribution during Lent (the Lenten offerings will go to Heifer Project International and the Episcopal Relief and Development Fund) along with a daily giving guide. Way of the Cross booklets are on the back table in the nave for those who wish to say these prayers individually. Finally, there is a vegetarian cookbook for those who practice fasting during Lent.
Explanation of Changes in the Church and in the Liturgy:There are a number of alterations made both in the decorations of the church as well as in the regular liturgy during Lent. The large brass candlesticks are replaced with black ones, representing that this is a season of penitence, not of celebration. The altar hangings are of purple, a color of Jesus’ royal kingship and of his royal priesthood, as he embraces suffering and finally death on the cross for his people. The regular cross is replaced by a crucifix, reminding us of the sacrifice of our Lord Jesus Christ, which defeats death and makes us whole. There are no flowers on the altar during Lent, again reflecting the focus on repentance over celebration.There are changes in the liturgy during Lent as well. The service starts with the Penitential Order, which focuses on confessing our sins and receiving forgiveness from the very beginning of our worship. On some weeks, we will say The Decalogue (the Ten Commandments), to remind us that we worship a holy God and that being in relationship with him means we are called to be holy ourselves. The music used for the regular parts of the eucharist changes; it is more in a minor key and in a more transcendent style. In the Eucharistic prayer (which is Prayer B-one that reminds us we live in the End Times), the “Prayer for Humble Access” is included. This prayer emphasizes God’s mercy and Christ’s worthiness in the context of our unworthiness without him. At the end, the post-communion prayer is different, demanding our attention to the actual words of what we are praying. All Alleluias are dropped during Lent, reflecting that Lent is again about penitence over celebration. Finally, the hymns are different in character, with words that draw us to the holiness of God and our need for his forgiveness and grace.
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