Junior Bekah Mongold, who shared a poem during Wednesday's service, marks the forehead of senior Perry Blosser in Lehman Auditorium at Eastern Mennonite University. Both students were among the campus pastoral leaders who imposed ash upon the foreheads and wrists of community members at the conclusion of the service. (Photos by Andrew Strack)

Ash Wednesday services lead EMU community into Lent

Shrove Tuesday and Ash Wednesday were marked by services at Eastern Mennonite Seminary and Eastern Mennonite University this week.

Martin Chapel hosted a Lectio Divina service focused on “living waters” of reflection and renewal on Tuesday.

Holding a bowl of ashes, Olivia Mbualungu offers the traditional words of blessing to an EMU community member.

An Ash Wednesday service was held during the regular 10 a.m. chapel time.

Undergraduate Campus Pastor Lana Miller joined with students Liz Resto and Olivia Mbualungu to offer a reading about the power of confession. Bekah Mongold shared a poem and Grayson Mast offered a reflection on accountability, brokenness and sin within the theme of confession.

Listen to the podcast.

Earnest Kiah’s soulful singing was the background music to the invitation to be imposed with ashes by pastoral leadership, including staff and students.

A second service at noon was held in the seminary.

Senior Grayson Mast, a pastoral assistant, speaks on the theme of confession.

Spiritual Renewal Week continues this week with Janeen Bertsche Johnson, campus pastor at Anabaptist Mennonite Biblical Seminary in Elkhart, Indiana. She will speak on Thursday at 11 a.m. in Martin Chapel, providing a reflection entitled “Attending to God” based on Isaiah 42.

She will also speak at Friday’s 10 a.m. chapel on “Assurance: God with Us.”

Listen to the podcast of Friday’s service.

Lenten reflections from among the campus community will shared throughout the next several weeks. Visit www.emu.edu/lent. The webpage currently features reflections from the 2017 Healing Justice Fast by Daryl Byler, executive director of the Center for Justice and Peacebuilding.

Lenten reflection from senior Caleb Schrock-Hurst

The most important thing Lent has taught me is that it’s alright to not say ‘hallelujah.’

The church can act too happy. Too often I see people smiling when they want to cry, people praising when they want to mourn, people pretending that this whole Jesus thing is enough for them even when tragedy is striking time and time again, people hiding their real feelings and somehow thinking that is faith. It reeks of dishonesty.

Lent is all about dispelling this notion — that it all has to be ok, that we must smile through everything. In Lent we hear that we are dust, and that to dust we will return. There is no ‘hallelujah’ here; there is pain, contemplation, confusion, regret, and anger, but no happiness. Lent teaches that it’s alright to feel hurt and desperation, that all humans are mortal and that God made it this was. Lent teaches that life is supposed to hurt, that faith allows and embraces pain, and that denying that confusion and mortality is denying the very reason God took on flesh: to know our pain. Lent lets us morn and contemplate together.

When life hurts, in and out of Lent, I never force out a ‘hallelujah,’ and that makes all the difference. In Lent we embrace the confusion, the realness, the mortal flesh, and we emerge the wiser for it, mourning and rejoicing together as the seasons change.