Not lost on Lent

by Latoya Burnham

Faces of angels? These girls smile serenely after the ashes have been administered to their foreheads.
Faces of angels? These girls smile serenely after the ashes have been administered to their foreheads.

There was laughter, hands raised to answer questions and ask some – in general it was not the usual Ash Wednesday service at St. Philip The Less Anglican Church in St. Peter this morning.

Filled with students from the nearby Boscobelle Primary and the Edna Nicholls Centre, the church rang with the song of beautiful voices and later with laughter and banter as the Reverend Davidson Bowen turned his “sermon” into a discussion with the children on what the day really means.

Using the story of Jonah and Nineva, the cleric told the children how God uses people to tell and show others how they are going wrong.

“Jonah said no, not me, I ain’t gine down dey, and Jonah got in a boat going in the opposite direction. What happened after that?”

One child responded, “He get eat!”

Bowen then told the children who attended, along with some adults and other parishioners that eventually the whale spat up Jonah and he went and did what God wanted him to do, adding: “I want you to remember that story because today is what?”

“Ash Wednesday!” the students chorused.

“And what happens on Ash Wednesday?” he asked.

“You get ashes,” the children said, as the adults laughed.

“That’s right. You come and de priest does dirty up your head with a black cross.”

Bowen explained that the ashes were symbolic of the frailty of the flesh, but noted that it also reminded people that there was a spiritual side to all of us.

He issued a challenge to the students to let Lent be the time that they used as practice to doing only what is good.

The 40 days and 40 nights that characterise the season, he said, were used by some to give up bad things, vices, reminding them in a separate session they had promised to give up things like swearing and other naughty practices.

He told them he wanted them to extend the period of giving up bad things to beyond the 40 days and in fact use Lent as the start of that period of good that would extend indefinitely.

“You know like how you warm up and you practise for sports day; like you would have been doing to prepare for sports on Friday? Well these 40 days are the practice to continue to do the right thing. I want you to remember Nineva and to remember Jonah.

“When you do your own thing, bad things can happen. So for the next 40 days we will do the right thing,” he said, shortly before the issuing of the ashes on the forehead.

The school choir gave a stirring rendition of Beautiful Beyond Description (I Stand In Awe of You) to close the short interactive service.

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