Just as we’ve completed the Advent-Christmas-Epiphany cycle, Lent is on the horizon. It’s an annual conundrum – waiting through Advent, celebrating the Christmas birth, sharing Epiphany stars and stories of the Magi – all the while anticipating Lent and the forty-day journey toward Easter.
This Lenten season will mark one year since the world started changing in response to the global pandemic of COVID-19. As many of us scrambled to reimagine our Lent-Holy Week-Easter activities during shut-downs and separation, I, for one, never imagined we’d be facing a second round of “remote” Lent this year. Yet, here we are.
We have the benefit of forethought this year. We’ve developed some savvy around offering remote worship, hosting Zoom Bible studies, and dreaming up creative activities to engage our congregations. This season, we can draw on 40-day Lenten themes of wilderness waiting while looking ahead to a joyous celebration of Jesus’ triumph over death.
In December, APCE hosted a seasonal Round Table: Looking Ahead to Lent. Educators from across the nation pooled our experience and shared ideas for Lenten studies and activities. Notes from this Zoom gathering are available https://apcenet.org/project/remote-ministry-zoom/ along with a wealth of other resources from previous Round Table Gatherings.
Here, you’ll find annotated ideas and recommendations gleaned from the Round Table discussion to stir your thoughts and planning for Lent. Active links are included. This year, Ash Wednesday is on February 17. Easter is April 4.
My husband’s church will host a drive-by imposition of ashes. For those not comfortable having ashes placed on their forehead, the marks can be placed on the back of the hand. We’ll be giving out “Lent in a Bag” to people who come through to receive ashes, using the suggestions from https://buildfaith.org/lent-in-a-bag/ Our Deacons will prepare layered soup in mason jars to accompany the Lent bags. https://www.allrecipes.com/recipe/16927/friendship-soup-mix-in-a-jar/
Jerusalem Greer offers ideas for an Ash Wednesday backyard bonfire. www.jerusalemgreer.com/portfolio/observing-ash-wednesday-at-home/ This idea can be reworked as a way to set the ambiance, and to keep worship leaders warm, by including a bonfire in a portable fire pit during the imposition out of ashes.
Other Ash Wednesday ideas include setting up spirituality centers or prayer walks around the inside or outside of your church. Invite individuals or smaller groups to participate at different times throughout the day. One congregation in our community offers Stations of the Cross with meditative art scattered around their sanctuary and schedules appointments for participants. Any of these ideas can be set up and visually recorded, then posted on the church’s web page or social media.
Helping Families to Mark Lent at Home
Several Christian publishers and groups have developed resources to help families walk together through Lent in the home.
- BuildingFaith.org gives instructions for a simple Lent in a Bag (see link, above) that can be prepared by congregations and given out to members.
- Tori Smit, regional minister for faith formation in the Presbyterian Church in Canada, hosts a blog with resources for church leaders. In Advent, the blog included an interactive Virtual Living Room that allowed users to click on items around the room for prayers, music, recipes, and activities for the liturgical season. http://www.cnob.org/?p=2073 UPDATE: According to Tori, look for a Lenten Garden version to be available in late January, cnob.org.
- IllustratedMinistrycom has FREE Faith Formation Resources (illustratedministry.com) each week between Christmas and Epiphany/Ordinary Time. Each weekly offering includes suggested scripture with discussion questions and prayer, an activity that connects with scripture and an illustrated scripture coloring page. Illustrated Ministry also has Lenten-themed resource bundles for individual, family, and congregational purchase and use. These include coloring pages, and daily and weekly devotional resources.
- SanctifiedArt.org is a collection of artists who work collaboratively to bring scripture and theological themes to life through visual art, poetry, liturgy, curriculum, worship installation art, coloring pages, graphic design, and more. This season, they are offering a comprehensive resource bundle, entitled Again & Again Bundle of Creative Resources for Lent (Year B) — A Sanctified Art. Resources may also be purchased individually.
- Traci Smith: Presbyterian pastor, parent, and writer has three books: Faithful Families (with study guide available online), Prayers for Faithful Families, and Faithful Families for Advent and Christmas. Although she has not developed a book specifically for Lent, families can mark The Three Pillars of Lent – by using three Lenten practices listed in Faithful Families, or purchase the Lenten Family Practices Calendar from Traci’s website traci-smith.com. UPDATE: According to Traci, the 2021 Lenten calendar should be available later in January.
- Jerusalem Jackson Greer: Episcopal blogger, speaker, and developer of resources for faith and families offers a blog: Observing Ash Wednesday at Home (jerusalemgreer.com) with ideas and links to other Lenten activities.
- Paraclete Press carries Laura Alary’s children’s book, Make Room: A Child’s Guide to Lent and Easter (paracletepress.com), that can be read aloud to young children to help them experience this season in a way that is meaningful and not frightening.
- BustedHalo.com, a ministry of The Paulist Fathers, a religious order of Roman Catholic priests who believe strongly in using modern methods of communication to bring to life the ancient message of the gospel, https://BustedHalo.com/tag/lent. For this season, they have developed a brief video to explains the significance of Lenten prayer, fasting, and giving. WATCH: Lent in Three Minutes | Busted Halo
- 40 – A Video Of Jesus In The Wilderness – YouTube. Adam Young compiled a four-minute video featuring British illustrator Simon Smith’s sketches of Jesus’ temptation in the wilderness. Provides a thoughtful reflection for the season.
- Lenten Family Trivia Night – using Kahoot.com app or website, you can create multiple choice quizzes and invite participants to an online Lent or Easter trivia night. Games can be created for various age groups, from children to adult. The app is used in many school classrooms, so children and youth are likely familiar with the program.
Lenten Book Studies
- Cokesbury.com offers an online comparison chart of Lenten studies for adults. Several titles listed below are included on the chart. www.cokesbury.com/lent-studies-comparison-chart-2
- Testimony: Vocabulary of Faith, a six-week adult study presented by The Presbyterian Outlook. It’s a blended course, using video and print components for 60-90-minute lessons. The materials are designed to be used for either in-person or remote learning.
- Lent in Plain Sight: A Devotion Through Ten Objects, Jill Duffield. A devotional guide for use from Ash Wednesday through Easter, looking at ten ordinary objects that Jesus would have encountered on his way to Jerusalem: dust, bread, the cross, coins, shoes, oil, coats, towels, thorns, and stones. In each object, readers will find meaning in the biblical account of Jesus final days.
- The Walk: Five Essential Practices for the Christian Life, Adam Hamilton, a 6-session study for adults, focusing on spiritual practices are rooted in Jesus’ own walk with God and taught throughout the New Testament. Resources also available for children and youth studies.
- Sensing the Passion: Reflections During Lent, Kevin Scully, imaginative meditations on five scenes from Jesus’ final days as experienced through the senses — the Last Supper, the Garden of Gethsemane, the arrest and trial, the walk to Golgotha, and the suffering and death on the cross.
- Entering the Passion of Jesus: A Beginners Guide to Holy Week, Amy-Jill Levine, author, professor, and biblical scholar explores the biblical texts surrounding the Passion story in this 6-session study. She shows how the text raises ethical and spiritual questions for the reader, and how we all face risk in our Christian experience. Accompanying DVD is available.
- The Grace of Les Misérables, Matt Rawle, a six-week study of the Victor Hugo classic dives into six ideals found in the story—grace, justice, poverty, revolution, love, and hope—each represented by a character in Hugo’s story. A DVD, Leader Guide, youth resources, and Worship Resource Flash Drive are also available.
There are many other study guides and books are available for weekly Lenten studies. The above list features resources recommended by participants in APCE’s Round Table Zoom discussion.