I don’t remember hearing much about Lent growing up. The Southern Baptist churches I attended didn’t say anything about this season of the Christian year, except maybe to lament the Mardi Gras excesses and question the sincerity of those heading to St. Louis Cathedral in the French Quarter for Ash Wednesday. When I moved to New Orleans to attend seminary, I was exposed to the Catholic influence in the city and the puzzled looks on behalf of fellow Baptist students who felt like strangers in a strange land, especially during the parade season.
There’s a lot more to Lent, and some Baptist churches make an effort to include an emphasis on this 40 day season of prayer and reflection leading up to Easter. This is a good article which talks about the rationale for this observance.
I know some churches actually incorporate sackcloth and ashes into their worship service, particularly on ash wednesday, the first day of the Lenten season. While our church won’t be doing that this year, we will be offering a midweek study entitled “A Call to Live” which does cover themes related to the Lenten season. We’ll have a different color Sunday worship bulletin and more importantly include a time of corporate confession into our worship service. It is not uncommon for Christians to “give up something” during Lent as well.
My prayer for myself and for our entire congregation is that we will be able to remember the service, sacrifice, and suffering of our Lord leading up to the crucifixion. I also hope that this will be an opportunity for personal and spiritual renewal for us all.