Area churches offer Ash Wednesday services

Published 8:12 pm Tuesday, March 4, 2014

“Remember you are from dust, and unto dust you shall return.”

With that phrase, millions of Christians around the world will be marked with ashes today as part of the traditional services that begin the season of Lent.

Ash Wednesday services will be held locally at St. Martin Catholic Church, St. Marks Episcopal Church, First United Methodist Church in Troy, First United Methodist Church in Brundidge and Park Memorial Methodist Church in Troy.

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“Lent begins a period of preparation for Easter,” said the Rev. Den Irwin, pastor at St. Martin Catholic Church. “The ashes are a mark of penitence, a physical mark that says ‘I want to turn away from sin and turn back to God.’”

During the services, typically offered through liturgical churches, participants are marked on the forehead with ashes in the shape of a cross. Not only is it an outward of sign of penitence, it is also a reminder of man’s mortality.

“It’s a symbol of our mortality and a reminder,” said the Rev. Jeff Byrd, rector at St. Mark’s Episcopal Church. “We’re marked in the same spot we’re marked with a cross during our Baptist, as a reminder that we are mortal and for Christians in hope that we are much more than mortal.”

Byrd said the hope hints toward the celebration of Easter, which commemorates the crucifixion, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, which is the heart of the Christian faith.

“This really begins the holiest season in the Christian year,” Byrd said.

In announcing the the services for First United Methodist Church, the Rev. Steve Winton offered the following message about Ash Wednesday and Lent:

“Wednesday marks the beginning of the season of Lent in the Christian church. It is easy to prepare for the joyful times of worship surrounding Christmas, Palm Sunday and Easter, but not so much for the forty days of Lent, since it is a time of recognizing our mortality and sinfulness as well as God’s redemptive work through Jesus Christ. We, as a church, will begin this season with an Ash Wednesday service at 6 p.m. in the sanctuary. The worship will be reflective in the areas of our personal mortality, sinfulness and God’s great redemptive work of the cross. Come and bring a friend as we prepare our lives for a time of repentance and redemption.”

The religious leaders said all people of faith are welcome to participate and receive the ashes today. The tradition dates back to the Fourth Century, Irwin said, and is one of the most ancient in church history..

“Anyone can receive the ashes,” Irwin said, adding that services on Ash Wednesday typically draw faithful Catholics and many visitors of other faiths. “I think we all have a longing in our hearts for God and to be closer to God, and we realize that our sins get in the way of that.”

Services today include:

• St. Martin of Tours Catholic Church, 12:15 p.m. and 6 p.m., 727 Elba Highway

• St. Mark’s Episcopal Church, 6:30 p.m., 401 W. College St.

• First United Methodist Church in Troy, 6 p.m., 213 N. Three Notch St.

• Park Memorial United Methodist Church, 7 p.m., 750 Elba Highway

• First United Methodist Church in Brundidge, 7 p.m., 140 N. Main St.