Over the last 25 years, more and more Methodist local conferences have been observing Lent, the 46 days before Easter. The Lent season does not include the six Sundays that fall in this period as churches generally regard Sunday to be the day for commemorating and celebrating the resurrection of the Lord. When we take away these six days from the 46 we get the 40 days of Lent. However, different regions and denominations still observe Lent of varying durations. This is mainly dependent on whether Sundays, Saturdays and the Passion Week are to be included in the Lent period.
Regardless, churches originally used Lent as a time to prepare believers who were to be baptised during Easter by gathering the baptism candidates together to fast, pray, reflect, confess their sins, read the Bible and spiritual literature, and meditate. The focus of their thoughts during the period of Lent was on Christ’s experiences after he was baptised by John the Baptist in the Jordan River, his fasting in the wilderness, and victory over the devil’s temptations as recorded in the Bible.
The word Lent was derived from the word “lengthening”, a reference to the longer days of spring. It could also denote the “growth” of Christian spiritual life through the annual discipline during Lent. What the word implies is that the spiritual discipline during Lent is both active and positive, and not a passive state of meditation, prayer and confession of sins. Going through 40 days of Lent together with their church signifies to baptism candidates the beginning of their spiritual life and its continued growth—not unlike the hibernating earth awakening when spring arrives, with everything coming back to life and the earth full of vigour.
One very meaningful form of spiritual discipline during Lent is abstinence or self-control. This is applied to our daily meals, or entertainment and leisure activities. We may consider restraining ourselves or suspending the activities altogether to remind us that we need to change, be transformed and be renewed, and to focus on the imitation of Christ, to be more like Christ.
Lent is observed from 26 Feb (Ash Wednesday) until 12 Apr this year. In conjunction with the 135th anniversary of The Methodist Church in Singapore (MCS 135), the organising committee has planned a series of five “Holy Word and Prayer” gatherings for the 40-day Lent season. These will be held on five Thursdays, beginning on 5 Mar. TRAC President, the Rev Dr Gordon Wong, will conduct a series of Bible studies and prepare the list of prayer items for our Church, our nation and our neighbours. The meetings will be held at four different churches per week. These churches are at least 100 years old.
For details, please refer to announcements on the MCS 135 celebrations in Methodist Message and your church bulletins.
Come! Participate! Together with me and brothers and sisters from CAC, ETAC and TRAC, we will pray and listen to God’s Word.
Bishop Dr Chong Chin Chung was elected Bishop of The Methodist Church in Singapore in 2016. He served as President of the Chinese Annual Conference from 2008 to 2016.