Today in the Mission Yearbook

Vital Congregation Initiative offers 2023 Lenten devotional


You’re invited to journey through the ‘7 Marks’ for seven weeks

March 16, 2023

The tenor of Lent is one of “complicated joy,” according to the Rev. Carlton Johnson, associate director for Theology, Formation & Evangelism for the Presbyterian Mission Agency.

“That is the way many of us approach Ash Wednesday, and the Easter Season in general,” writes Johnson for a new resource from the Office of Vital Congregations, which Johnson serves as coordinator. “While we know that the season ends with hope, we begin with the recollection of despair that is both present and historical, both individual and collective.”

The “Vital Congregation Initiative Lent 2023 Devotion” offers weekly reflections by pastors and presbytery staff participating in the Vital Congregations Initiative, which is currently in its 5th wave. The Rev. Dr. Gary Neal Hansen, the Rev. Katie Day, the Rev. Dr. Flo Barbee-Watkins and the Rev. Mario A. Bolivar are just some of the contributing writers who contribute a Scripture reflection. The Rev. Tony Oltmann, associate for the Vital Congregations Initiative, pairs each reflection with a favorite soup recipe. Lenten soup suppers are a cherished practice among many churches that Oltmann has frequented. “I was surprised by the way soup made me feel closer to God,” says Oltmann.  In his introduction, Oltmann holds up the way soup suppers bring fellowship during Lent’s “unique discipleship journey.

The resource is organized according to the Seven Marks of Congregational Vitality: Lifelong Discipleship Formation, Intentional Authentic Evangelism, Outward Incarnational Focus, Empowering Servant Leadership, Spirit-Inspired Worship, Caring Relationships, and Ecclesial Health.

“There is plenty we can give up for Lent,” writes the Rev. Dr. Tracy Keenan, Missional Presbyter for New Castle Presbytery, as she connects Lenten practices to the process of getting “real” that comes with Ecclesial Health. “It’s more important than ever that we know who we are and what our priorities are,” Keenan writes before encouraging leaders to know their values and make decisions in alignment with them and to be accountable to one another.

The “Vital Congregation Initiative Lent 2023 Devotion” is available as a downloadable pdf and is designed to aid your devotional journey beginning on Ash Wednesday, February 22.

Registration for the 5th Wave of Vital Congregations is ongoing.

Beth Waltemath, Communications Associate, Presbyterian Mission Agency

Today’s Focus: Vital Congregation Initiative Lent 2023 Devotion

Let us join in prayer for:

PC(USA) Agencies’ Staff
Mason Todd, Admin. Asst. Church Leadership Connection, Office of the General Assembly
Julie Tonini, Director of Production, Publishing & Editorial Presbyterian Publishing Corporation

Let us pray

Ever-loving God, we are confident that you are with us every step of the way as we walk with the Spirit. Give us the courage to hear our answers to the questions you already know. May our response be to your glory. Amen.