Some of us grew up in traditions that observed Lent and Ash Wednesday, some of us grew up in spaces that skipped most of that and went straight to Resurrection Sunday (Easter). 


In the church calendar, Lent is the time between Ash Wednesday and Easter (we mark it as 40 days because Sundays are not a part of Lent ... every Sunday is a "little Easter.") Forty is an important number in the Holy Scriptures - think of the 40 days and nights of the Great Flood, the people of Israel who wandered in the wilderness for 40 years, the 40 days Jesus spent fasting in the desert as he began his ministry). And Lent comes from the Old English word for "lengthen" ... the time in the spring of the Northern hemisphere when days get longer. 


Christian churches have traditionally observed Lent as a time of prayer and penance in the days leading to Holy Week ... it's a replication of Jesus' withdrawal into the wilderness - which, in the end, led to clarity of self and purpose.


Ash Wednesday marks the beginning of Lent - February 26th this year. Traditionally, followers of Christ are marked on their foreheads with the sign of the cross in ashes made of the palms from the previous year's Palm Sunday.


The words used in the ritual of the ashes are something along the lines of "remember that you are dust and to dust you shall return." Ash Wednesday reminds us of our mortality - that death is a part of life. In a culture that is largely grief avoidant, Ash Wednesday puts it front and center: inviting us to consider our finiteness, the reality of grief, the cycle of life that necessarily includes death, and the way we touch the transcendent.


I am fond of the bodiliness of this church season - the reminder that we are human - Earth and stardust. I think of the holiness of dust - the dirt that the Creator made all things from. And I think of all the human ashes I have felt slip through my fingers as I have returned my own loved ones and members of the congregation to the holy earth.  This time reminds me both of my one wild and precious life - and of the resurrection of all things in the springtime of the year. The daphne coming back year after year is enough to convince me of the second coming - and the third, and the fourth, and the fifth ...


Lent is a time for marking reality - life as it truly is. Grief and hope. Light and darkness ... always both/and. 


I hope you will be in church this Lenten season - your presence on our communal journey will make a difference to someone, maybe even you.


- Pastor Jennifer Butler 

Sacred Stories

Tuesday Night Lenten Study with Walter Balk

In light of recent scheduling changes, Walter will reach out to participants.

In our Lenten study this year, we will be joining authors Maya Angelou, Frederick Buechner, and James Carroll in a four-part video series as they look at their lives and discern how their experience and their spirituality are intertwined. This will provide a space for us to look at our lives; through pictures and writing prompts, we will meditate on how we have experienced the presence and absence of God in our own lives.

Add 1

Add 1 spiritual practice during Lent at First Congregational UCC

Many of us struggle with observing Lent. We fear that by subtracting something from our lives we will be left fractured, diminished, or perhaps even feeling ashamed. But the math of spiritual life is strange and can lead to very different equations: By subtracting something from your life you may gain something else.

For example, if you fast from food (or perhaps binge TV viewing) you might gain an internal spaciousness that allows you to see your life more clearly and allows you to be more present for others. Or, by adding a practice to your life you may find yourself clearing out and subtracting all that is extraneous. For example, following a simple prayer routine may cut through the fog of distraction to the core of who you are; it may help you discover traces of God in your life.

Join us in adding one spiritual practice to your life as a Lenten discipline. Practices can be as varied as prayer, inviting someone to dinner, fasting, speaking up for what is important, being silent. You are invited to write your practice for this Lenten season on the special bulletin board in the main entrance hall and/or on social media #add1CorvallisUCC.

Lenten Devotionals


There will be two different Lenten devotionals for you to choose from this year: Wendell Berry and the Sabbath Poetry of Lent by The Salt Project and Deliver Us by the Stillspeaking Writers Group of the United Church of Christ:


Wendell Berry and the Sabbath Poetry of Lent - by The Salt Project

In this Lenten devotional, biblical texts and simple, accessible practices walk hand-in-hand with Wendell Berry’s poetic vision of sabbath and the natural world. All you’ll need is your Bible and Wendell Berry’s This Day: Collected and New Sabbath Poems. We have some copies on hand. Week by week, we’ll walk through the woods together toward Easter morning, keeping sabbath as we go, with Wendell Berry as our guide.

Deliver Us - by The Stillspeaking Writers' Group of the United Church of Christ

The existential and everyday threats we face are daunting. With faithful people across the ages, we cry out to God for deliverance ... not only pleading for God to act but seeking the courage to let God act through us. We can take such a risk ... or we can play it safe.

The Lenten season is a time for each of us to explore the ways in which we promote (or prevent) the deliverance we so desperately seek.

From the writers of the popular online Daily Devotional (ucc.org/daily_devotional) Deliver Us includes a biblical text, reflection, and prayer for each day.

Would you like to be kept in the loop? Sign up for our weekly email newsletter!


Field is required Incorrect email
Field is required Incorrect email
Field is required Incorrect email
You have successfully subscribed to our newsletter
You were not subscribed. Please try again
You are already subscribed to this newsletter