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Three Southern California Presbyterian churches collaborate on Ash-less Wednesday service

The service, available online churchwide, will focus on hope and racial justice

by Deborah Mayhew, St. Mark Presbyterian Church | Special to Presbyterian News Service

ORANGE COUNTY, California — For three social justice-focused Presbyterian churches in Orange County, California, Ash Wednesday will look different this year. But its meaning may be even more profound and deeply felt than in pre-pandemic times.

New Hope Presbyterian Church, led by the Rev. Chineta Goodjoin;  St. Mark Presbyterian Church, led by the Rev. Dr. Mark Davis; and Canvas Presbyterian Church, led by the Rev. Kirk Winslow, are collaborating on a virtual worship experience that will reflect their respective journeys towards racial justice and hope.

The Rev. Chineta Goodjoin is pastor of New Hope Presbyterian Church. (Contributed photo)

And, instead of imposing ashes, participants are encouraged to have a small pot, soil, some seeds and water on hand. The three parts of the service, “Dirt,” “Seed,” and “Water” will invite worshipers to place soil in their pots, put seeds into the soil, and pour water on the soil and seeds.

“Ash Wednesday will symbolize Creation, growth and baptism,” Davis said. “Each church will offer music, scripture, reflection by each pastor and a prayer of confession that represents its experience. Our pastors will come together at the beginning and end, enabling us to all be in connection with one another.

The Rev. Dr. Mark Davis is pastor of St. Mark Presbyterian Church. (Contributed photo)

“Given how we have all been worshiping virtually during the pandemic, we felt that coming together in this way would be especially needed and important,” he said. “It speaks to how we have been deeply affected by sickness and death, as well as to the hope we have moving forward together.”

Additionally, the Ash Wednesday service will use some components from A Sanctified Act, which offers materials for the theme “Again & Again. A Lenten Refrain.” These include art and devotionals by the Rev. Denise Anderson, coordinator for Racial and Intercultural Justice for the Presbyterian Mission Agency.

The Ash Wednesday service is a natural progression of the work the churches have been doing independently and collaboratively. St. Mark and New Hope, for example, have joined together on racial justice efforts and previous Ash Wednesday services, including in 2016, when they offered ashes and gunpowder to protest gun violence in the wake of the tragic shooting at Emmanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina. Most recently, Canvas has been offering a Continually Learning Series, with the newest segment, “Race and Gender in the Quest for Social Justice,” to be held on Monday, Feb. 15.

The Rev. Kirk Winslow is pastor of Canvas Presbyterian Church. (Contributed photo)

As the churches move into Lent, they will connect in various ways through the season, and incorporate the seeds of hope into Holy Week activities specific to their congregations.

The virtual Ash Wednesday service will begin at 5 p.m. Pacific Time on Wednesday, Feb. 17, and can be accessed through each church’s website. A YouTube launch will also be available at 7 p.m. Pacific Time through the church websites.

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