On Ash Wednesday, Feb. 13, 120 people gathered in Lee University’s Chapel to celebrate the beginning of the Lenten season.
For the second year, Lee University is hosting weekly Lenten services every Wednesday until Easter, this year on March 31, in the Chapel. . The services begin at noon and are led by Father Mitch Baker, who is also the Coordinator of Technology Support for Lee’s Division of Adult Learning.
Though the services are liturgical in form, Baker encourages students and community members of all backgrounds to come and experience them.
“Lent itself is a time of preparation for Easter,” Baker said, adding that the tradition began as a way for new believers to prepare for baptism on Easter. Others in the church chose to join with the new converts and support them, and the Lenten traditions grew from there.
Baker describes Lent as “40 days of introspection” with one of the main purposes being to look back on the time and ask, “Am I any different today than I was 40 days ago?”
“It’s a time to encourage one another in our journey together,” Baker said.
The awareness of liturgical tradition on Lee University’s campus started when Baker, who has worked for Lee since 2001, began meeting with students on campus in the fall of 2002.
“There are a lot of students from a liturgical background,” Baker said, mentioning also that he wanted to “show there was a way to blend liturgy with pentecostalism.”
In 2005, Baker started Emmanuel Fellowship, a pentecostal liturgical church that meets on Saturday nights, in addition to the special services already being held on Lee’s campus. Baker began holding Ash Wednesday services in 2004 and has also helped in presenting the Stations of the Cross in the outdoor amphitheater at Lee.
“We are trying to minister to students every way we can,” Baker said. “It also exposes other people to the signs and symbols of the seasons. We’ve misplaced and forgotten some of our heritage.”
Lee University Campus Pastor Jimmy Harper adds that some students enjoy the more liturgical approach.
“[Ash Wednesday and Lent] are not traditionally connected to the Church of God, but we enjoy them,” Harper said. “We want to offer a diversity of opportunities.”
Harper, who helps to serve communion at each Lenten service, said that he enjoys being a part of the services.
“It’s been a positive thing for the campus community,” Harper said.
Harper also sees these services as another way Lee can connect with the community. Some community members who attend the services are graduates of Lee, others find out about the services through Baker’s church, Harper said, but all are welcome.
The fact that the community comes and participates is an added blessing,” Baker said.
Each service is meant to be a reflective time and typically features a musical soloist, scripture readings by students and a reflection on one of the scriptures by a faculty or staff member. The service ends with communion. Services last approximately 45 minutes.
“Midweek is a good time to encourage people,” Baker said, adding that the services were planned for the noon hour in hopes that more people would be able to attend.
Participation in the services is not a necessary to attend the services, Baker said. Those who wish to just sit and observe are welcome, as well.
Lenten services will continue each Wednesday, including the week of Lee’s spring break, until Easter. There will also be an Easter sunrise service at the Chapel, Harper said.