CHURCH BRIEFS (as a section header)

Special to The Chronicle-Express

St. Mark's Episcopal

The Lenten season will begin at St. Mark’s March 2, Ash Wednesday, which gets its name from the custom of placing ashes (made by burning palms fronds from the preceding year’s Palm Sunday) on the foreheads of worshipers. The ashes serve as a reminder of our mortality – and as a mark of penitence to start off the contemplative season of Lent. Join us at noon that day for the imposition of ashes – to begin the reflective season of Lent. All are welcome!

The Lenten season, the 40 days between Ash Wednesday and Easter Saturday (not counting Sundays), has for many been a time of penitence: a deepened awareness of our failings and a resolution to change our ways. Two of the behaviors connected with Lenten penitence, in particular, are fasting (limiting the amount of food consumed) and abstinence (refraining from eating meat). Like many other religious traditions, Christians see this denial of physical gratification, which can also take the form of giving up favorite foods or alcohol, as a means to purify the soul, to become closer to God. St. Mark’s former rector, Dan Burner, suggested that perhaps instead of giving up these pleasures, that we focus our Lenten efforts on eliminating the barriers that tend to separate us from our fellow humans, habits that distance us from God.

In response to that suggestion, one parishioner gave up sarcasm and criticism, choosing instead to be deliberately pleasant even with people who normally irritated him. He reported later that this practice had an unexpected (and often amusing) shock value. Perhaps the Reverend Burner’s suggestion can be seen as a rewording of something Mark Twain is reported to have said: “Always do right. This will gratify some people and astonish the rest.” Not an unworthy aspiration for this Lenten season.

The Lenten season will begin at St. Mark’s March 2, Ash Wednesday, which gets its name from the custom of placing ashes (made by burning palms fronds from the preceding year’s Palm Sunday) on the foreheads of worshipers. The ashes serve as a reminder of our mortality – and as a mark of penitence to start off the contemplative season of Lent.

Please join us at noon that day for the imposition of ashes – to begin the reflective season of Lent. All are welcome!

Milo Center Methodist

We are so grateful to provide our outreach mission for lunches at The Well. Thank you to Karen Hallings, Jeannine Andersen, Jill Henderson, and Candy Bezek for this month. Prayers lifted to the Youngs and Cleveland families as they grieve a loved one. Love sent to Craig & Sue Prior, Steve Eskildsen and Dale Welker.

Our collection for March will be for our furry friends through Pet Partners Connection. The annual chicken barbecue is scheduled and being planned. Mark your calendars for Saturday June 11. A five-week Lenten Bible study will begin via Zoom on March 2. What God Did to Win Your Heart is the topic. We will be partnering with Branchport UMC. 

Pastor Kim spoke of the Golden Rule this week. As early in the Bible as Exodus we read of vengeance; in the book of Luke we are reminded to spread love and kindness as we wish to receive it. Love is an action; it is a choice we make with every interaction we have. Jesus chose nails to save us; it seems we can choose kindness. It may save another. Life is an echo, what you send out will come back to you. What do you wish to receive? 

LeTourneau Christian Center

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Attention homeschool students, join us March 22 from 2-4 p.m.  This event is for homeschool students ages 5-18. The students will be split up into an older and younger group.  Half of this time will be learning basic locomotor and non-locomotor movements, followed by an activity called Hullabaloo!  This is a crazy, wild, energetic game we have created to practice these movement skills while working with others and having an absolute blast. The other half of the time will be hanging with friends in our recreational hall while enjoying a snack and playing ping pong, foosball, carpet ball, board games and more.  

First Presbyterian Church

Lent, which begins on March 2, is an interesting time period in the liturgical calendar. Most other significant Christian events observed or celebrated are traceable and clearly documented in the Bible. Lent is never mentioned. While there is evidence of certain preparations prior to Easter, Lent was not a defined event. The period of Lent and its rules weren’t established until much later. It began with the “legalization” of Christianity in AD 313. During early Christianity, various sects emerged in Europe, the Middle East and north Africa, so differing practices were common and there was internal struggle for superiority. Eventually leaders came to realize that similar sects needed to start working together to create uniformity in the teaching of doctrine and rules of worship, if Christianity were to survive. A Council consisting of 318 Bishops was formed. The first discussion to formalize Lent was made during their first meeting in AD 325, at Nicaea, where a disciplinary canon was proposed. Sometime by the end of the fourth century, the forty day duration and elements of Lent were codified by the church.

The Gospels of the New Testament often mention the practices that laid the foundation for Lent: Fasting, Prayer and Charity. Biblical scholars note the apostolic origins by citing the 40 days Jesus spent in the wilderness to prepare for his ministry on Earth. The Nicaean Council paid homage to Jesus by deeming Lent to be for a period of 40 days. This provides people equal time to identify with Jesus' suffering, intensify our focus on the spiritual and show our commitment to repentance, thus bringing us closer to God.

Rules concerning Lent have eased over the years with many modifications made for today’s world. Current Lenten practices are sometimes viewed as a time to “reset” priorities. Not all practice fasting,; some may chose to “give-up” certain foods, an activity we enjoy, or a bad habit. In 2019, the top three things given-up for Lent (in order) were: social media, alcohol, and Twitter! Our sacrifice should involve genuine self-denial with the intent of promoting spiritual awakening. How many of today’s Christians devote time to daily prayer? Too many of us (pre-COVID) were already over-booked with activity. Add to that emails, social media, Zoom, online browsing, gaming, etc. Perhaps during Lent, a second commitment could be to draw ourselves away from technology for just a half hour each day to focus on spirituality through prayer. Third, the practice of charity and almsgiving brings us full circle. With 40 days of Lent, commit to volunteer with a charitable organization for 40 hours. Make a $40 donation to a good cause. Make something to feed 40 people and donate it to an event. Take the “40 Items/Bags in 40 Days Challenge.” Every day for 40 days, pick an area of your house and select unneeded items and clothing. At the end of 40 days, try to end up with either 40 items or 40 bags/boxes to donate. You declutter and simplify while helping others in need. While practices may have changed through the centuries, the focus of Lent remains constant: Repentance for our shortcomings, recognition of the need for humanity towards others, and renewal of our faith.

Penn Yan First Baptist

Repainting at the First Baptist Church of Penn Yan is nearing completion. The scaffolding has been removed and the trim work is being done. Fresher and brighter.

The painting in our sanctuary is coming along nicely and is in its last stage. It is bright and fresh. The crew is finishing up the details and trim work but the scaffolding is gone. We continue to meet for worship service in the Great Room.

Our pulpit supply schedule for the month of March will be: March 6, Rev. Don Lawrence; March 13, Mark Slomski; March 20, Mark Slomski; March 27, Rev. Dr. John R. Tharp. Our adult Bible Study class will meet on March 6 and 20, studying the Words of Jesus.

This month, we focus on the America for Christ offering that reaches people across the United States and Puerto Rico. Our goal this year is to raise $600.

Bluff Point Methodist

Choir is back at Bluff Point United Methodist Church!  So good to have our choir singing God’s praises in person in the sanctuary. Sing to the Lord!

Covid cases are abating, and we soon will begin more of our usual activities. After-church fellowship will begin March 6, and Sunday School on March 13.  Let’s hope the Covid numbers stay low.

Pastor Sandi’s lesson this past week was on the Living Water, based on scripture from John 7: 37-52, "Those that are Thirsty Come to Me!" In this scripture, we see where Nicodemus stood up for Jesus. Others may not have thought that Jesus was worthy.  We also looked at Living Water, the Word of Jesus. In our country these days, we are blessed with ample clean water for washing, drinking and comforts. We need water to survive. Water allows us to swim, take a bath, and even water our grass in the summer or wash our cars. What do we do with the water that fills us? We use water for grace and nourishment. We use it to care for others. As in scripture, if you allow me to fill you, I will give you what you need. Water builds is up so we can give to others. All of this comes from Jesus, as Pastor Sandi notes. We all have a roll to play, and when we are kind, courageous and bold we extend Jesus’s grace. Pastor Sandi gave us homework to look into when we are being poured into. Is it with prayers?  Is it in the morning or evening? When we see division, what can we pour into it, in the name of Jesus? How do you react to show the love of Jesus?

It is good to see more back in the sanctuary for Sunday services, and that we can all sing again in church. Prayers that this phase of Covid remains behind us with no more variants. Please come forward if you can help with Sunday School or snacks.