Faith in Fairfield: Lenten sacrifices that bear long-term fruit
Published 6:10 pm, Sunday, March 20, 2011
I have always loved the season of Lent. Lent carries people from Ash Wednesday to Easter, from the middle of winter to the early promise of spring, from the opening hours of Jesus' ministry to the triumph of resurrection. Lent incorporates those themes and a lot more. It is a time of repentance (what do I need to change?), of sacrifice (what am I willing to give up?), of humility (the blunt reminder on Ash Wednesday that we are only mortal!).
My affection for Lent is personal and professional. Both have to do with the length, almost seven weeks. My father used to say, "Anything you give up for Lent you can give up for life." His point is that generally we don't give up for Lent something that is good for us. We decide this or that is something we could or should do without. And if we succeed for seven weeks, why not continue?!
I can honestly say that that idea twice changed my life. One day I stepped on the scale and it shouted out a number I never expected to see. The next day was Lent, so I vowed to significantly change my eating habits. It worked for seven weeks, my first successful attempt at a much needed life change.
Several years ago, a friend came out of Ash Wednesday service and told me that she was quitting smoking for Lent. Before I could catch myself I told her, "Me too, if you can do it, I can do it." We kept each other honest for seven weeks, finally able to shake a lifelong habit after countless failed attempts. The length of time combined with the sacredness of the vow got me over the hump.
Professionally, as a pastor, I like Lent because people give themselves permission to really focus on faith and church, much like Advent during the Christmas season, or the High Holy Days of Judaism and Ramadan of Islam. Or, if you prefer, spring training for baseball. Sure, baseball players could stay home, work out on their own, play catch in the backyard, then show up for Opening Day. But experience has shown that a concentrated time of focusing and preparation makes the real season better.
Lent gives people the chance to practice our faith at a deeper level, for a concentrated time, helping the rest of the year go better. A newer idea is to take something up for Lent. Instead of giving something up, try a new spiritual habit or practice. Whatever you are not doing right, try doing right. When you do something for seven weeks you have a good head start on a whole new life.
GREENFIELD HILL CONGREGATIONAL CHURCH
1045 Old Academy Road, Fairfield
CO-PASTORS: Rev. David Johnson Rowe and Rev. Alida Ward
HISTORY: Greenfield Hill residents assembled in a tiny building in 1725 for their first worship as the "Northwest Parish," which had recently been permitted to separate from the First Church of Fairfield. There were 13 men. One year later, 15 women were added, and by the end of 1726, there were 70 members. Timothy Dwight was the church's fourth and most famous minister. After his 12-year pastorate, Dwight became president of Yale College in New Haven
PROGRAMS: Dogwood Festival annually since 1936, Greenfield Hill Church Nursery School, Memorial Garden, weekly youth ministry and fellowship programs, Bible study, Book Chat, community service including Operation Hope meals.
EVENTS: Lenten Program, at 7 p.m. Tuesday, March 22, in the church Memorial Room, "Living Room" worship team. Interactive, creative, fun and faithful event that looks at what strengthens faith, what gets in the way, how to keep on track or get back on track.