Tag Archives: lent

Holy Week 2016 Pastoral Call to Fast and Pray

Our tradition of fasting and praying from Good Friday to Easter Sunday began in 2006. At that time, we felt keenly that our church was at a crossroads, and we found ourselves turning to God for answers about our future direction as a congregation. We prayed and were led to the following key conclusions that set a course for us to evolve, with God’s grace, into the church we are today:

  • Move our regular Sunday service outdoors.
  • Relocate our church offices.
  • Trust the church’s finances to God.

The tradition we established all those years ago has provided us with the physical and spiritual space at least once a year to pause, fast and pray for God’s direction in our lives. The result is that God has answered clearly and has attended with us in a journey that saw us become “The Church Without Walls” and embrace even more fully our core belief that having a direct, personal and unencumbered relationship with God is our true calling as Christians, and that this spiritual relationship should have primacy over any contravening doctrine or rules.

Today we find ourselves joyfully doing the work God has laid out for us, with the miracle stories happening at a seemingly dizzying pace. We have experienced significant growth in our outreach to the community and to like-minded seekers. Every year when we celebrate the anniversary of our founding on March 15, 1998 we celebrate our past and present and look hopefully into a bright future.

Once again this year, I pray that you will join me and the pastoral staff of this church on Holy Saturday in Candler Park to fast and pray. It is only with your support that we have become a church that is affirming, inclusive and progressive in our ministry — and it is only with your help and prayer that it can continue. If you cannot join us physically, you are of course welcome to be with us in spirit.

We will spend the rest of Lent getting ready for this day. For instance, I typically set aside an hour at 11am on Tuesdays in Lent to pray and prepare.

The following are the details of our time of prayer and fasting. If you have small children, don’t let that stop you from participating — just let us know you intend to be there and we will arrange for child care during the Holy Saturday portion of our observance where we gather together to fast and pray together. In particular, if you have a signed covenant with this church, I appeal to you to participate in this sacred, and holy, time of reflection and seeking God’s direction for this fellowship.

Themes for the Church Fast

Individually we encourage ourselves to focus on:

  • What each of us can do to continue the work of this church.
  • What each of us can do to support the ministry of our vision and mission.
  • What we can do as individuals to proclaim and act on the core beliefs of the church.
  • What it means to be a community of doers versus followers.

Collectively we will pray and seek God’s guidance on:

  • Expanding ministry, and what that means.
  • How can we continue our homeless ministry.
  • What the “Church Without Walls” looks like, feels like, acts like.

We have examples in the Bible of others calling for prayer and fasting during times of searching, to set themselves aside for God and to determine God’s leading. Jesus spent 40 days in the desert fasting and praying — he set himself aside to better/more clearly hear God speak and direct him in all that he needed to do. We are no different in this church. We need God’s direction and wisdom to clearly speak to us.

Therefore we set aside Easter weekend to put ourselves aside and concentrate on God, to allow God to speak with each of us and to all of us as a church. Our church will start our fasting and prayer with the Good Friday service (at sunset) and continue through the Easter Sunrise service.

Schedule for Holy Saturday

9:00 – 9:45am Praising God in Song – Centering ourselves and focusing on God
9:45 – 10:00am Direction for individual prayer time
10:00 – 11:00am Individual prayer/meditation – concentrating on your needs
11:00 – 11:30am Time of sharing over juice/water – a type of break
11:30 – Noon Presentation of prayer items about church – details so that we all can pray about our church issues
Noon – 12:30pm Individual Prayer for the church
12:30 – 1:00pm Brainstorm on the church questions– sharing how God spoke to you
1:00 – 1:15pm Time of sharing over juice/ water – a type of break
1:15pm – 1:30pm Group Prayer time
1:30 – 2:00pm Sharing

God Bless,
Pastor Paul

Rev. Paul M. Turner

About Rev. Paul M. Turner

Founding and Senior Pastor of Gentle Spirit Christian Church, Rev. Paul M. Turner grew up in suburban Chicago and was ordained by the Universal Fellowship of Metropolitan Community Churches in 1989. He and his husband Bill have lived in metro Atlanta since 1994. He is the editor of the Seeds of Hope blog whose posts from 1999-2005 are at http://whosoever.org/seeds/ -- and which now resides at http://gentlespirit.org/topics/blog/seeds-of-hope/.

Easter Sunrise Service Caps 2016 Holy Week and Lenten Observance

The Easter Sunrise Service at the Church Without Walls in Atlanta’s Candler Park at 7:31am on Sunday, March 27th caps the 2016 Holy Week and Lenten observance for Gentle Spirit Christian Church, which includes:

Why Easter is Actually the Most Wonderful Time of the Year

This photo, from a throwback gallery the AJC posted this week, is so great on so many levels. It’s from an age before social media, before everyday internet access — a time when the means for communicating were much simpler, and sometimes bolder. And seeing this image during Eastertide makes even more sense to me.

Yup, it’s still Easter(tide). As in literally, on the liturgical calendar. And even though that season does have a beginning and an end, we should carry a shard of it with us all year long, because the point of Easter should be the point of our daily lives all year: Without forgiveness, there is no resurrection.

Looking at this image, I’m reminded of MLK’s unswerving commitment to nonviolence, which was rooted in his faith. I’m reminded of Mandela’s refusal to rip apart South Africa’s white-dominated rugby culture in the days after apartheid. I’m reminded of all the gay people who attend the legally sanctioned weddings of friends and family knowing they don’t have the same standing in the eyes of their government.

These things happen because people are able to see beyond themselves. They do it because they love and forgive. The photo above is a bittersweet symbol of a time when a despised minority would extend a hand outward and, more often than now, wouldn’t find a hand reaching back.

Love and forgive. It doesn’t get any simpler — or any better — than that.

Rev. Paul M. Turner

About Rev. Paul M. Turner

Founding and Senior Pastor of Gentle Spirit Christian Church, Rev. Paul M. Turner grew up in suburban Chicago and was ordained by the Universal Fellowship of Metropolitan Community Churches in 1989. He and his husband Bill have lived in metro Atlanta since 1994. He is the editor of the Seeds of Hope blog whose posts from 1999-2005 are at http://whosoever.org/seeds/ -- and which now resides at http://gentlespirit.org/topics/blog/seeds-of-hope/.

A Lenten Execution Flies in the Face of Everything Calvary Was About

With the scheduled — and now postponed — executions of Kelly Gissendaner and Brian Keith Terrell in the headlines this Lenten season, I can’t help but wonder how many of the people who support state-sponsored killing are participating in the ages-old Christian ritual of “giving up something for Lent” that amounts to forgoing sweets, or fast food, or caramel-flavored lattes.

I wonder this because that Lenten practice, while well-intentioned, is supposed to feel like a sacrifice. It’s supposed to be part of a time when we renew our focus on God. So the irony of the state executing people during Lent doesn’t escape me; in fact, it haunts me. It haunts me because the end of Lent is Easter, which includes Good Friday, a solemn observance of the day Jesus made the ultimate sacrifice — indeed, at the hands of the state — in order to wash away our sins.

One way of looking at Calvary is that in its own way, it should have been the last state-sponsored execution. Ever. So every time we allow the state to execute someone in our names, we make a mockery of that. We set aside the Good News for the Old Testament of laws that Jesus told us he came to fulfill. And then he gave us a new command: Love one another.

But that new command doesn’t mean much if we can’t apply it in the most trying circumstances. Not executing a convicted killer is just such a circumstance. We should try it sometime, and there’s no better time than Lent.

Rev. Paul M. Turner

About Rev. Paul M. Turner

Founding and Senior Pastor of Gentle Spirit Christian Church, Rev. Paul M. Turner grew up in suburban Chicago and was ordained by the Universal Fellowship of Metropolitan Community Churches in 1989. He and his husband Bill have lived in metro Atlanta since 1994. He is the editor of the Seeds of Hope blog whose posts from 1999-2005 are at http://whosoever.org/seeds/ -- and which now resides at http://gentlespirit.org/topics/blog/seeds-of-hope/.

Easter Sunrise Service Caps 2015 Holy Week and Lenten Observance

The Easter Sunrise Service at the Church Without Walls in Atlanta’s Candler Park at 6:34am on April 5th caps the 2015 Holy Week and Lenten observance for Gentle Spirit Christian Church, which includes: