North Augusta, SC (WJBF)- Today is the first Sunday in Lent, an important season of reflection for many Christians. Last year Lenten traditions were stopped because of the beginning of the pandemic.
Lent is traditionally observed by the more orthodox Christian religions such as the Catholic, Methodist and Episcopal churches. It is the season of self denial and reflection leading up to the Easter celebration.
Father Joseph Shippen, the Interim Priest at Saint Bartholomew’s Episcopal Church in North Augusta said the pandemic has forced people to do that all year.
“Yeah, it feels like last year Lent began and it never really ended in some ways. Because in Lent we cut back on things. It’s a time that we in the church think of as a time of kind of self denial. And so I think a lot of people in the church have felt like we started Lent and we never really came out of it.”
For almost a year the pews have been empty. The choir loft and band stand –barren. Instruments and voices –silent.
Aside from a couple of months in the fall, members of Saint Bartholomew’s Episcopal Church have had no choice but to worship at home through online services. Reverend Joseph Shippen said it’s been a learning experience.
“Lent, last year, we were still learning at St. Bartholomew’s and I think a lot of churches, how to do online worship, meetings…prayer services. All kinds of things. And we did our best.”
Shippen said churches have had to get creative to keep up holy traditions during the pandemic–and it’s been a challenge.
“We at St. Bartholomew’s and so many other churches, other clergy I’m talking to, have been grappling with, how do we do things like Ash Wednesday and our regular services. Because in the church, so often, part of that experience has to do with material things, like Communion. Or Ash Wednesday with the ashes experience,” explained Shippen.
Senior Warden, Dee McLane agreed. She said the church has come up with ways to try to keep not only adults and teens involved during Lent, but the kids as well. She said the church’s Minister of Christian Education has been instrumental in keeping that program going.
“Again, we’re very blessed to have Terrie Lehi here. Terrie has done a phenomenal job is trying to keep the children involved. They’ve had Sunday School by Zoom, This past week we handed out bags–Lent in a Bag–with activities the kids can do all through Lent,” McLane said.
McLane said some good has come out of the pandemic.
“I think probably, the biggest thing for me is I have been staying in touch with some of the elderly in our church. Which is something I never really did before because I’d see them on Sunday,” said McLane. “And it’s given me a better appreciation for the variety of individuals that we have here at Saint Bartholomew’s.”
Shippen said the church cannot open its doors for in person worship until the Diocese says it is ok. He and McLane both said they hope to be able to have in person worship services by Easter.