I rarely do anything timidly.
But on Ash Wednesday this year I very timidly and quietly slipped into a pew at St. Mark’s Episcopal Church. I wasn’t sure what to expect, and I went alone. An Episcopalian friend of mine had warned me to be ready for pew aerobics — stand, sit, kneel, walk to the front of the church and kneel, go back to the pew and kneel, stand up again, etc.
It’s not that I had never attended an Episcopal church service. I tried out a lot of different denominations before becoming Seventh-day Adventist. But it had been at least eight years since I last observed Lent — the religious observance between Ash Wednesday and Easter, where many fast and/or focus on growing in their spiritual discipline — and I had never attended an Episcopal church on Ash Wednesday. (The Adventist church doesn’t officially observe Lent, though I know other Adventists who do.)
As I sat there that day a few weeks ago in a comfortably quiet sanctuary watching a ladybug on the stained glass nearby, I wondered if I should leave.
Something — I’m going with the Holy Spirit — had led me there. So I wanted to see what was going to happen, but what if I choked on the bread and didn’t want to drink from the cup during communion? What if I stood when I should kneel or didn’t know the proper congregational response? What if I stood out as an outsider and made a fool of myself by not knowing the right thing to say or do?
And I can observe Lent without actually letting someone put the ash cross on my forehead, right?
I’m glad I stayed that day despite my worries because I received an extraordinary blessing. Yes, some of the things said weren’t exactly in line with my own personal beliefs, but it didn’t matter.
I walked away from that service feeling renewed and refreshed in my spirituality. It was what I needed to stay firm in the commitments I had made for Lent this year — the primary one being that I would turn to God in prayer for comfort instead of turning to food. Yes, this means I gave up my afternoon-super-stressed-at-work-everyone-is-driving-me-nuts chocolate.
This Sunday is Palm Sunday and marks the beginning of Holy Week. Holy Week represents the last week of Jesus’ life. Many churches in the area have different observances planned to commemorate that week and Jesus’ sacrifice and resurrection. Many events are listed in the paper in the church announcements each Saturday.
It doesn’t matter if your church doesn’t observe Lent or Holy Week. You can still receive a great blessing through these services.
Don’t be afraid to step out and experience something new.
I’m glad I wasn’t.
Murray County native Misty Watson is a staff writer and photographer for The Daily Citizen. You can contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org, facebook.com/MistyWatsonDCN or on Twitter, @mistydwatson.