Upshur Cooperative Parish begins Lent with meaningful Ash Wednesday service at WV Wesleyan

By Caitlin Ware

(L-R) Front: Emily Wilmoth, Sarah Wilmoth, Amanda Webb, Mary Ellen Finegan, Caitlin Ware; Middle: WVWC College President Joel Thierstein, Bishop Sandra Steiner-Ball, Jim Minutelli, Bob Anderson, Steve Meadows; Back: Lauren Weaver, Pam Moll, Barry Moll, Helen Oates

The United Methodist Upshur-Cooperative Parish met at Wesley Chapel Wednesday night to observe Ash Wednesday. Pastors and lay leaders throughout the parish led the service with readings, hymns, and prayer. Music was performed by WVWC’s Concentus Vocum. 

Ash Wednesday marks the beginning of Lent (the six week period of fasting and prayer before Easter). On Ash Wednesday, people gather to pray for forgiveness and are marked with a cross on their foreheads made of ashes from the last Palm Sunday (the week before Easter). 

Bishop Sandra Steiner-Ball gave her sermon entitled “So… What Are We Doing Here?” In this, she examined the seeming disconnection between the event and Jesus’ words in Matthew 6 to not put piety on display. 

“Why do we gather to put ashes on our foreheads,” she asked, if “we aren’t supposed to pray and display our piety in public?” “We don’t gather to show our own achievements but instead to admit and apologize for our shortcomings. Ashes don’t show faith, they show shortcomings” She answered. 

She went on to explain the intent of Jesus’ message in Matthew 6. “Matthew 6 actually means our good deeds should be so consistent they are done unconsciously and are natural. They aren’t done for a show… It’s difficult for us to disconnect from showing our deeds. Ash Wednesday is about exploring that difficulty. We admit we are humans in need; less than we could be.”

Lent is a time for examination, confession, forgiveness, and new plans. “We are more than we have become” Steiner-Ball proclaimed, “Jesus came to show us the opportunity for a new life in God and to discover ourselves so we can become the more God has created us to be.”

As we take this time to examine ourselves in preparation for Easter, let us pray for revival in our lives, and forgiveness for all that holds us back from being our best selves in Christ.