Our Lenten Journey
Lent is the period of 40 days that precedes Easter in the Christian calendar. Beginning on Ash Wednesday, Lent is a season of reflection and preparation before the celebrations of Easter. By observing the 40 days of Lent, we as followers of Jesus replicate his sacrifice and withdrawal into the desert for 40 days.
We have taught in this church to use this time to repent (turn back to God), reflect about our individual relationships with God and resolve to act on the discoveries made in that time of repentance and reflection.
In past years I have tried to give a specific theme or topic for us to concentrate on during those 40 days. However, this year the discernment is simply to encourage you during the 40 days of Lent in your own way and time each day to set aside 20 minutes daily to read scripture, pray, repent and reflect on your relationship with God.
This last year has been one of grief, trauma, and crisis. Simply trying to get through the year has been so stressful as to cause many us to lose touch with our Creator or at least to certainly feel a great distance there — and also to find our hope shattered and our grief over the loss of life and relationships overwhelming.
I dare say we need these next 40 days to find once again our feet upon solid ground, our moral compass reset and our faith restored.
When we as a congregation have prayed and were open to the Spirit of God it has led to several exciting miracles over the last 15 years, including:
1. Going into the park to have morning services.
2. Finding a home for our office and a partner in ministry with First Christian Church of Decatur.
3. Trusting God for the finances to keep going.
4. Being open to what God would send to us — and despite COVID-19, rather than lose ministry, we have gained followers from all over the world.
5. Continuing the efforts to meet the “needs” of the community rather than trying to “fix” the community.
6. Preparing and distributing Hygiene Kits — more than 10,000 at last count.
7. Reformatting our worship time to be more inclusive and welcoming, having successfully taught all who were part of this ministry to “own their faith rather than rent it”!
8. Developing an incredible network in the community that allows us to meet the needs of those who connect with us.
9. Continuing to work on becoming a community fellowship rather than an institutional church.
10. Continuing even with great fear and trepidation, but rock solid faith, to publish Whosoever.org.
All these things have happened by God’s grace. God has answered clearly and has been by our side in a journey which has caused us to become literally the “Church without Walls.” We have become a group of faith people who emphasize having a relationship and love for God and each other (as opposed to stressing doctrine and rules).
Throughout these past 22 years we have continued to pray for our church and its direction… How to better do the work God has laid out for us.
We have had significant growth in outreach to the community and to our folks. The miracle stories seem to happen at a dizzying pace. We will celebrate our 23rd anniversary on March 15th and as we celebrate our past and present, we will look to our future.
As God’s Spirit once again calls for us to spend a time of “Fasting and Prayer” from sundown Good Friday to Easter Sunrise, I encourage all of you consider joining with me at the park on Holy Saturday, April 3rd, to pray and fast. I will have masks and make sure we are socially distant. Here are complete instructions for prayerful fasting.
Please consider joining me on Holy Saturday in person or via Facebook live, as I will also attempt to make this a Facebook Live event — no promises as to the quality, but I will do my best.
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.
The daily readings we will be following for the Lenten season are from the Revised Common Lectionary (Year B), a service of the Vanderbilt Divinity Library.
If you have a signed “Covenant” with the church I appeal to you to participate in this sacred and holy time of reflection and seeking God’s direction for this fellowship.
Our Prayerful Church Fast
Individually we will be encouraging you all to focus on:
1) What can each of us do to continue the work of this church?
2) What can each of us do to support the vision and mission of GSCC?
3) What do we need to do as individuals to proclaim and act on our core beliefs.
4) Pray for an end to COVID-19 and a return to what feels more normal.
5) Consider a spiritual journey of discovery that answers the question: Am I a doers or follower?
Collectively we will be praying and seeking God’s guidance in the following areas:
1) Our expanding ministry on the Internet – how much should we take advantage of?
2) How can we continue our Hygiene Kit ministry?
3) Grant research – as we seek to minister to the homeless and others, we are in pursuit of grants to help us continue serving those in need. We seek prayer here for guidance from God as to the direction and which grants to go for.
4) What does the “Church Without Walls” look like? Feel like? Act like?
In times of searching, we have examples in the Bible of others calling for prayer and fasting to set themselves aside for God and to determine God’s leading. Jesus spent 40 days in the desert fasting and praying. Jesus set himself aside to better/more clearly hear God speak and direct Jesus in all that he needed to do. We are no different in this church. We too seek God’s direction and wisdom to clearly speak to us.
Easter weekend we put ourselves aside and concentrate on God, to allow God to speak with each of us and to all of us as a church.
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 https://gentlespirit.org/topics/blog/seeds-of-hope/.