With the opening hymn “Come Ye Sinners Poor and Needy” staff from the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) gathered at the Presbyterian Center Chapel this morning for Ash Wednesday services. Ash Wednesday begins the season of Lent, recognized as a day of mourning for personal sin and the sin of humanity before God.

Bryce Wiebe, manager of Special Offerings and a member of the worship planning team, reminded the congregation that the Season of Lent is marked by discipline.

“Clasp your hands shut and imagine all of the things you hold and keep such as resentment, hardships, anger, pain and fear,” he said. “During this season, so many people choose to give something up. As you clinch hands tight, imagine giving up one of those things. If I have a prayer, it’s that you will give something up so your hands may be open to be filled in new ways by the light of Christ.”

Jason Santos, coordinator for Collegiate, Young Adult and Youth Ministries in Theology, Formation & Evangelism, brought the morning message. Reading from Genesis 3:17-19, Santos shared excerpts from the story of creation and how Adam and Eve sinned before God. He said we have all entered a world of pain, toil, labor and death.

“This day is not about walking around with dirt on our foreheads, but a reminder that we are entering a season where we remember we are still fallen,” he said. “Redeemed, yet we still live in broken vessels that will eventually decompose into this earth.”

Santos challenged PC(USA) staff to embrace the season for what it is, a call to remember we have fallen short, yet knowing there is joy, triumph and redemption of power over sin and death. “Lenten is a season characterized by leaving something out. It reminds us that when we feel a pang of desire for what we gave up, we are immediately to turn to God to remind us who we are. Live to the fullest of this Lenten season.”

The Rev. Laurie Kraus, coordinator of Presbyterian Disaster Assistance and member of the worship planning team, says the opportunity for PC(USA) staff to gather together at the center is significant.

“I felt this deep sense of union and releasing of sorrow and longing for wholeness and the presence of the spirit to walk with us,” she said. “We do difficult work and many of us are saying goodbye to work companions we have known for months and years as they move into retirement. The themes of loss and sacrifice that are so deeply embedded in the Lenten discipline are very resonate themes for us here.”

Wiebe felt the service was significant for those who spend a great deal of their time in the field.

“There is a particular type of both pastoral care and prophetic ministry that lives out in our chapel services and was lived out today because so many of the people here have been clergy or long-term service personnel in the church,” he said. “We are out in the field and don’t have a lot of home church experiences. This service created a spiritual home for us, a sense of community and connectiveness that we can reach out to each other for support, help and aid.”

Wiebe added the church is doing difficult work in a transitional time, adding Ash Wednesday marks the beginning of a difficult and transitional time in the life of Christ and the life of faith.

For more information on Ash Wednesday resources, click here.