Dear People of God: The first Christians observed with great devotion the days of our Lord’s passion and resurrection, and it became the custom of the Church to prepare for them by a season of penitence and fasting. This season of Lent provided a time in which converts to the faith were prepared for Holy Baptism. It was also a time when those who, because of notorious sins, had been separated from the body of the faithful were reconciled by penitence and forgiveness, and restored to the fellowship of the Church. Thereby, the whole congregation was put in mind of the message of pardon and absolution set forth in the Gospel of our Savior, and of the need which all Christians continually have to renew their repentance and faith.
I invite you, therefore, in the name of the Church, to the observance of a holy Lent, by self-examination and repentance; by prayer, fasting, and self-denial; and by reading and meditating on God’s holy Word…
(BCP pp 264-5)
21 February 2020
Dear Members of the Episcopal Diocese of Central Pennsylvania,
In just a few short days, we will gather in churches across our diocese on Ash Wednesday to hear words from our Book of Common Prayer inviting us to the observance of a holy Lent.
We will transition from the season of light and glory- Epiphany- in to the season of prayer, fasting, and reflection- Lent- and, working through a process of discipline, study and introspection, reconcile ourselves before the Lord and prepare for the paschal feast of Easter.
Lent offers us a time for deep soul work: We are given the opportunity to look with compassion at parts of us that are broken, to seek understanding, and to ask God to give us the tools to make us whole again; we are given the grace of time to focus on changes that we would like to make in order to live more harmoniously with our creation, each other, and our Creator; we are invited to draw from the well of Holy Scripture to find ancient wisdom for our modern lives; and we are really blessed to have this “time apart” to dwell on the gifts that God has given us and to pray for new insights for how to best use them.
Adopting new spiritual disciplines or refreshing old spiritual practices are important features of Lent. We may take on a new prayer practice, choose to read a book of the Bible that is new to us, give up a favorite food or activity, devote ourselves to service or mission- but these are not ends in themselves. The spiritual practices that we take on at Lent are vehicles of devotion for us to attain a deeper understanding of God and our relationship with God and each other.
This Lent, I will devote myself to fasting on one day of the week answering the call of our Presiding Bishop to join him in this spiritual practice as we pray for the “soul of our nation” https://episcopalchurch.org/posts/publicaffairs/lent-2020-call-prayer-fasting-and-repentance-leading-action, I will shift my morning spiritual practice from reading Morning Prayer to engage a period of Contemplative Prayer, and I will study in two areas: I will investigate the work of the Poor People’s Campaign, a revival of the work of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. that is moving across our country and sounding a “national call for moral revival” https://www.poorpeoplescampaign.org/,
and I will participate in the study group offered by Mrs. Lisa Work and The Rev. Deacon Marsha Roscoe on the book by Mary Bea Sullivan, Living the Way of Love. For more information on the virtual group that is forming, click on this link:
An additional resource that we are offering this year through our diocesan leadership is a daily reflection on the themes of our diocesan wide initiative Shaped by Faith: Change, Discovery, Experimentation, Collaboration, Creativity, and Faith. These reflections will be posted daily on our diocesan Facebook page and on our diocesan website.
As we continue in our diocese to discern how we are “Shaped by Faith,” working with our convocations to explore our vitality and to search for new ways that God is calling us to be Church, I pray that our own inner journeys during Lent will bring up in us the boldness and courage that we need to do this important work of re-shaping our diocese. I pray that our spiritual walk in the desert of Lent will yield an Eastertide for our diocese that is wildly abundant, fresh, and brimming with new life.
Join me. Join our diocese in a holy, holy Lent. Commit to a practice that will lead you into deep soul work, and allow God’s loving hand to shape you- shape us- by faith.
In the Way of Love,
The Rt. Rev. Audrey C. Scanlan