Ash Wednesday 2012

“You are dust and to dust you shall return.”
Thousands of Catholics, Lutherans, Episcopalians, Presbyterians and Methodists will begin or end their day hearing those words today.
Ash Wednesday will be celebrated in churches throughout El Paso. The day begins the 40 days of the Lenten season.
It’s a time which many Christians observe by praying, fasting and giving to the needy.
St. Patrick Cathedral will have distribution of ashes during four Masses, starting at 7 a.m. today.
One of the most solemn days for Christians, Ash Wednesday calls upon people to reflect upon their sin and their mortality – clergy said.
“No matter how great and magnificent I make it in life, what is going to count at the end is my relationship with God” – said Deacon Carlos E. Rubio, vice chancellor for the El Paso Catholic Diocese.
Rubio said the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ reminds Christians that they, too, can have eternal life.
“But to get there, it becomes necessary to understand what Jesus Christ did for us, the suffering he did for our forgiveness” – he said.
The deacon said Catholics are asked to prepare for Easter and the resurrection of Jesus Christ by being compassionate to others, praying and giving to the needy.
“We only are forgiven because God forgives us. And likewise we should show that to our fellow man” – Rubio said.
The Rev. Vernon Schindler of Ascension Lutheran Church said he will mark Lent with a series of midweek services beginning on Ash Wednesday.

Ash Wednesday 2012
Ash Wednesday.

Don’t assume every ash-marked forehead you see today belongs to a Catholic.
Ash Wednesday, long associated with Catholicism, is increasingly observed in Protestant churches.
The Rev. Joe DeRoulhac became senior minister of Redlands’ First Baptist Church in 1989 but didn’t preside over Ash Wednesday services there until 2003. The idea came from an interfaith Ash Wednesday event he participated in a year or two before.
DeRoulhac said there’s an increasing desire among Protestants to look anew at ancient Christian practices that previously were identified with Catholics.
“Part of this is retrieving from the past rituals that might help us today to fully experience the significance of our faith” – he said. “It’s our common heritage.”
As in the Roman Catholic Church, ashes are typically seen as signs of repentance and mortality, and Ash Wednesday marks the beginning of Lent, the 40 days (except Sundays) leading up to Easter.
Even a small number of evangelical churches have begun holding Ash Wednesday services – said the Rev. Kurt Fredrickson, an associate dean at Fuller Theological Seminary, an evangelical institution in Pasadena.
Evangelicals historically have avoided practices viewed as Catholic – he said. Today, there’s general acceptance among evangelicals that Catholics are fellow Christians and they see less of a need to distance themselves from Catholics – he said.
Changes in the Catholic Church after the Second Vatican Council of the 1960′s helped reduce the sense of difference Protestants felt toward Catholics – said the Rev. Sheryl Kujawa-Holbrook, a professor at Claremont School of Theology and an expert on Christian history. In addition, prejudice against Catholics has waned and interfaith dialogue has increased, she said.

Ash Wednesday marks the start of the Lenten season. Some individuals make an individual sacrifice as an expression of their faith. For others, it’s a day of gathering and unity.
Lent begins today and is observed for 40 days prior to Easter.
“For me, Ash Wednesday is an annual mental pilgrimage to the most important aspects of Jesus Christ’s life — His most significant teaching, the extreme sacrifice He made and that it ultimately provided the greatest hope that Christians have” – said the Rev. Steve Bailey, pastor of First United Methodist Church of New Philadelphia.
Today marks the kickoff of the annual community Lenten services at noon Wednesdays at First UMC at 201 W. High Ave., New Philadelphia.
The 30-minute service features a pastoral leader from one of seven participating churches and is followed by an inexpensive soup and sandwich lunch.
This year’s theme is “The Questions Jesus Asked” – as recorded in the Gospel of John.
A few area ministers developed the idea about 20 years ago, and Bailey has continued the series during the 14 years he has been at the church.
“Initially, most of those attending were retired. Now we’re seeing a larger cross-section of people” – Bailey said.
“The instability and world turmoil over the last five years — with recession, war and terrorism — has caused people to want to gather together in a positive way and experience hope,” Bailey said. “All too often the Christian community is divided rather than united. People enjoy this series. It’s truly a celebration of our unity, and I think it builds mutual appreciation and goodwill among our churches.”
Bailey arrived back in the United States on Tuesday after being on a trip to Africa. He will participate in the kickoff event, which he said has grown steadily over the years. Attendance ranges from 70 to 125 people.
“Now that I’m one of the senior pastors in the community, I try to help introduce some of the newer pastors locally to the community” – Bailey said.
He said that one of the trends he sees is “a lot of teens seem to practice giving up soft drinks or chocolate during Lent. They want to take their faith more seriously by denying themselves something.”
Fr. Jeff Coning of Sacred Heart Parish in New Philadelphia also returned Tuesday from Africa.
He said that Ash Wednesday is personally “a reminder of my own need to make sure that I’m doing a better job of following the Gospel.”

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