From Minneapolis to Palestine: UCC’s Lent 2024 resources focus on liberation, saying no and flexibility
Lent begins early this year, and the United Church of Christ has resources ready for both personal and congregational Lenten journeys.
The season that begins with Ash Wednesday on Feb. 14 and continues through Easter Sunday on March 31 will be rich with themes connecting liberation struggles from Minneapolis to Palestine and exploring a practice of saying no.
‘From Minneapolis to Palestine’
Throughout Lent, the UCC’s Join the Movement toward Racial Justice is offering a daily practice calendar and weekly book study guide. A webinar on Feb. 8 will launch the Lenten series, led by Join the Movement’s leaders, the Rev. Velda Love and Sharon Fennema.
Each of these opportunities responds to how the Lenten season begins amid the violence and death of war in Israel and Palestine, with the theme “From Minneapolis to Palestine: Nourishing the Rising Up Journey.” They incorporate Curtiss DeYoung’s book The Risk of Being Woke, which is rooted in the activism that emerged following George Floyd’s murder.
While the word “woke,” which originated with Black Americans, has become contested by the political right in recent years, Love encourages people to engage with its meaning.
“My work puts me into direct contact with clergy and lay leaders with beliefs that racism ended decades ago. ‘Didn’t Martin Luther King Jr. eradicate racism?’ No! If one has the privilege to live without seeing the reality of injustice, then one is not awake nor aware of the realities happening in BIPOC communities,” she said. “Every generation develops new phrases, words and themes that fit their lived experiences with white supremacy threats and acts of violence. ‘Woke’ is not a word to be afraid of, but a word to explore, examine and ask more questions as to how one can be in the struggle for racial justice at all of the intersections.”
Love emphasizes the importance of “staying woke” while entering “a pivotal year in our United States where our democracy can be destroyed if we aren’t paying attention.”
“Communities think because it’s quiet that everything is all good, but there’s always an underlying ongoing oppression in BIPOC communities,” she said. “To be reawakened means I am now ‘woke’ to what’s happening in the 21st century. I want to be reawakened to the hard questions that Scripture has for me in this moment. I want to be attentive to and listen to how people are responding to what’s happening in their communities and what’s happening politically.”
Book study, daily calendar
The weekly book study and “40-Day Rising Up Journey: Woke Lent 2024 Calendar” will center on these themes with inspiration from DeYoung’s book. People can prepare by getting a copy of the book.
“This book is for those who are hopeful and seeking community with others who are also hopeful that beloved community encompasses all God’s people,” Love said, adding that DeYoung has firsthand experience being with people in Palestine and South Africa whose land and identities were stolen and colonized.
The Join the Movement book study guide — which will be available for download beginning Feb. 1 — will offer a weekly journey through the book’s three sections, focusing on opportunities for action, community building and deeply rooting in relationship with God. It can be facilitated in groups or used for personal reflection in journaling or mediation.
The Woke Lent 2024 Calendar, which will also be shared on the Join the Movement website, will offer daily reflections on themes and quotes from the book, ways to connect the Movement for Black Lives and Palestinian liberation, and spiritual practices and actions that offer nourishment and help build capacity for racial justice activism.
Sermon Seeds to ‘say no’
Meanwhile, this year’s Lenten Sermon Seeds series will focus on the theme “Say no.” It comes from Mark 8:34, where Jesus calls together the people and his disciples, saying, “All who want to come after me must say no to themselves, take up their cross and follow me.”
The Rev. Cheryl Lindsay, minister for worship and theology, notes that during Lent many Christians practice fasting “as a means of devotion and connection with Jesus’ path to Calvary.”
“It is my hope that through preaching this series, as well as engaging the liturgical selections, worshippers in local churches will embrace the possibilities that self-emptying makes available for new life in Christ,” she said. “It also provides a countercultural witness in a world that glorifies individualism, dogged independence and instant gratification that following Jesus involves mutuality, community, interdependence and hope that transcends temporary, quick and superficial fixes.”
A new addition this year will include a Holy Saturday worship resource for use in communal worship, small group gatherings or individual devotion.
“Most local churches do not hold Holy Saturday services as the day invites us to reflect on the silence of the tomb,” Lindsay said, but she hopes this ritual will help facilitate that reflection and allow people to “connect more deeply with the silence and uncertainty of the tomb and death.”
Lenten Worship Ways liturgical resources will be available soon, written by the Rev. Chad Abbott, Indiana-Kentucky Conference minister, and the Rev. Michelle Torigian, pastor at St. Paul UCC in Belleville, Illinois.
Devotional encourages bending, not breaking
Written by the Stillspeaking Writers’ Group, it offers daily readings, reflections and prayers for the Lenten season.
“Perhaps I especially resonate with the Lenten theme of Bend because of my own physical stiffness — my literal body is tight and sore from a lack of stretching,” said the Rev. Rachel Hackenberg, Pilgrim Press’s publisher. “We all benefit from being bent in mind and body and spirit. Flexibility or bendability in our thinking, in our muscles and in our spiritual curiosity allows us to live in an overwhelming world and respond to it with love — without being broken or consumed by it.”
She added that readers of the Daily Devotional will be glad to recognize many familiar names among the 16 writers who contributed. The devotional is available in paperback and PDF download through Pilgrim Press.
“This new and excellent Lenten resource related to modern day slavery brings important attention to a true global crisis,” said the Rev. Mark Pettis, the UCC’s ecumenical and interfaith relations minister. “It is important for our churches to learn more about this issue, to understand how our faith speaks to this injustice and to find ways to engage to bring an end to this horrid practice.”
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