Lent – a 40-day period prior to Easter that begins on Ash Wednesday in the Christian calendar – is being observed more often in Baptist churches.
Greg DeLoach, senior pastor of First Baptist Church in Augusta, Ga., talks about how his church recognizes Lent, in a new Skype interview with EthicsDaily.com.
“My own Lenten journey is in essence a borrowed journey,” says DeLoach. “That is, it’s in observance with other faith traditions. Baptists don’t have a longstanding tradition in the Lenten journey. And so because it became important to me in my own spiritual formation or observance, it was something that I eased in or introduced into congregations that I was serving.”
“The irony is it made me look like a creative genius, even though I’m borrowing off nearly 2,000 years of church tradition,” he added.
DeLoach, who became senior pastor at First Baptist of Augusta in 2005, said the Baptist churches he has served have been receptive to the Lenten observance.
He said it might be because even traditional Baptist churches have congregants with backgrounds in other faith traditions, some of which observe Lent.
“So it’s in many respects affirming the larger family of faith in our particular family of faith,” says DeLoach, a native Georgian.
DeLoach says First Baptist of Augusta doesn’t always mark the Lenten journey in the same way: it has marked the Lenten period in Sunday morning services, distributed devotional books written by laity or draped crosses in the sanctuary.
But several years ago the church decided to hold an Ash Wednesday service to mark the beginning of Lent.
Traditionally, Ash Wednesday services include the marking of congregants with ashes – often in the shape of a cross on the forehead or hand.
That’s when DeLoach encountered a practical problem: Where do the ashes come from?
“When I went to seminary,” says DeLoach, “they didn’t really teach us some of the practical matters of an Ash Wednesday service.”
He turned to his friends in the Episcopal church for help with ashes, palm fronds and more.
What happened next involved a cashew can — and a humorous reminder that to dust we all return.
DeLoach explains it all, and offers suggestions to other churches considering Lenten observances, in the full interview.
This year, Ash Wednesday falls on March 5, with Easter on April 20.
Watch the interview with DeLoach at vimeo.com/ethicsdaily/skype-gregdeloach
Learn more about Greg DeLoach at fbcaugusta.org/about/staff/dr-greg-deloach/
Watch other EthicsDaily.com Skype interviews at vimeo.com/ethicsdaily