Katherine and I attended Ash Wednesday services at Good Shepherd, Dunedin, Florida, just North of Clearwater where we attended the Mardi Gras celebration the night before. The Reverend Becky Robbins-Penniman is the Rector of what appears to be a small but active congregation. Approximately 35-40 people attended the service and I appreciated the printed service bulletin and the liberty “Pastor Becky” had taken in changing some of the wording of the liturgy. As she explained at the beginning of the service, there was an attempt to make Lent a positive experience, in our world where there is so much negativity.
For instance, in the “Introduction to the Observance of a Holy Lent” from the Prayer Book, the bulletin read: “The Lenten disciplines of acts of kindness, prayer and fasting are tools of discipleship that can lead us to renewal as we bury all that is holding us back, and repent – turn – to follow Christ into becoming more fully alive.”
An excerpt from the “Exhortation” stated: “I invite you now to take the first steps of our journey towards Easter joy. To begin our pilgrimage, we admit the failures of our past and seek the discipline to become who God created us to be.”
In the “Litany of Lenten Pilgrimage,” we read: “Let your Spirit inspire us to discern how we each partner with you to live in a world where all Creation thrives in God’s love.”
Each of the intercessions began with “Have mercy on our past sins…” and included: “and give us the strength to follow Christ with all that we are, and all that we have; and fill us with the courage to find ways to tell our stories of your presence in our lives; and give us the eyes of the prophets, who learned to see how you created the world to be in the first place, without human sin messing it up; and give us the grace to enjoy life in ways that honor you; and grant us the wisdom to understand the impact of our actions on our children’s children’s children.”
Congregational responses all began with “We seek to become who you created us to be…”
Response to the scripture readings was: Lector “The Holy Spirit still speaks to the Church.” Congregation “Let the Church give thanks to God.”
The last intercession from the Prayers of the People: “Let us never underestimate the Spirit that you send into our lives, that we may courageously honor your image in us, our baptism in you, and our relationships with each other.”
As the Fraction Anthem, we sang one verse of “Just as I am.” The Dismissal said: “As God’s beloved, follow Christ to become who God has created you to be.”
While we did miss being with our parish family and the ecumenical celebration at St. Pat’s, our experience at Good Shepherd was another kind of gift of inspiration and perspective on our Lenten journey which we all share at both ends of the East coast.
Shalom, Pastor Rick, on Lenten Retreat