Local church pastors are stressing one central message this Lenten season - its time to take inventory of oneself and make changes.
The focus of the Lenten season is always forgiveness and reconciliation and self-examination, to figure out what you need to be forgiven of and who you need to forgive, said the Rev. Elizabeth Papazoglakis, rector at St. Johns Episcopal Church, Massena.
The Lenten message was shared yesterday during Ash Wednesday, which marks the first day of Lent, a 40-day liturgical period of prayer and fasting or abstinence for Christians.
In Potsdam, the Rev. James E. Barnes II, pastor of the Potsdam United Methodist Church, preached on Plea and Advice during a 7 p.m. Ash Wednesday service.
Its a time of introspection, of faith examination, of preparation for both the gift of Good Friday and the joy and triumph of Easter, the Rev. Mr. Barnes said. If we dont do the Ash Wednesday service, and just do Sunday morning Lenten services, it doesnt convey quite the same message.
He said Lent should be taken seriously.
The real key thing is how we approach it and do things that are difficult at times. We can utilize this time. Its an opportunity for us to be especially aware of our relationship and be reconciled with God, to give God some great priority over what we do so often in the world that makes demands on us, he said. Really, the whole idea is to take our relationship with God seriously, to be reconciled with God. We have to do it by doing the right thing instead of just giving up.
During Lent, the church also has a Friday morning prayer group to discuss various chapters from the Book of Proverbs. They also participate in community Lenten luncheons.
At St. Johns Episcopal Church in Massena, the Rev. Mrs. Papazoglakis said church member Ron Morrow made a cross thats being used this Lenten season.
Its not quite life-sized, but almost, she said. There are pieces of paper and stick pins near the cross. People anonymously write what they need to be forgiven of and stick (the paper) on the cross.
On the night before Easter when they light a new fire, all those pieces of paper will go up in the new fire of Easter, she said.
Self-introspection to determine what needs to be forgiven and then taking action is important during Lenten season, the Rev. Mrs. Papazoglakis said.
Sin is anything thats bad between us and God. It can be people, it can be activities, it can be whatever, she said, noting individuals need to ask themselves, How am I not being the person God created me to be and ask for forgiveness for it?
The parishes of Sacred Heart and St. Lawrence, along with St. Marys and St. Josephs, are working together on programs this Lenten season, according to the Rev. Donald Manfred, pastor of the parishes of Sacred Heart and St. Lawrence. Among them is Oremus, a Lenten scripture study group that meets twice weekly at 6:30 p.m. Mondays and at 2 p.m. Tuesday.
Both parishes also offer Stations of the Cross at 11:15 a.m. Wednesdays at Sacred Heart Church and at 6:30 p.m. Fridays at St. Marys Church.
The parishes are also participating in Ecumenical Lenten Worship Services and Luncheons held at noon Wednesdays at St. Johns Episcopal Church.
Its a good ecumenical effort because people from various churches come together for prayer and to eat together, he said.