Lent, 2021
Lent is the beginning of our time of searching our souls and as the Prophet Joel says, rending our garments. Throughout the Lenten Season, we sacrifice our temporal wants and desires to discover again the deeper needs of our mind, body, soul, and spirit in light of God’s eternal perspective. We find the courage to acknowledge our frail mortality and our great need for GOD.

We begin this journey by repenting of our sins and silence in the face of the pains and problems of those less fortunate than us. We acknowledge our pride and arrogance over the next 40 days as we enter this time of self-denial, fasting, prayer, alms giving and serving others. Let us hear God speak to us through the Prophet Joel 2:12-14 as the season of Lent begins.

“Yet even now, says the Lord, return to me with all your hearts, with fasting, with weeping, and with sorrow; tear your hearts and not your clothing. Return to the Lord your God, for he is merciful and compassionate, very patient, full of faithful love, and ready to forgive.” (CEB)

What did you give up for Lent? What are you anticipating will happen throughout this 2021 Lenten season? What spiritual disciplines will you engage? What temptations will you resist? To what spiritual longing will you return?














Remember that Lent is not just an individual time of reflection; it is also a time for us to reflect and respond as a community. As your journey throughout these next 47 days let us also pay attention to the needs and opportunities beyond our personal piety that God may be inviting you to engage.

Yesterday we received a call at the District Office asking “can our choir sing together” in church this Easter? Our response was “not yet” or not like you remember singing during Easters of years past. We continue to encourage churches to follow the CDC and FLUMC Conference guidelines. The good news is that we were also able to redirect the caller to many of our churches throughout the district who have discovered ways to safely sing and praise God.

As we enter our eleventh month of the pandemic and vaccines are being distributed, I want to again thank you for your faithful leadership to Christ, the church, the community and to each other. I have seen and heard amazing testimonies of how our Gulf Central Districts Clergy and Church leaders have continued to lead with innovation and live resiliently. We have learned so much about ourselves, our families, neighbors, communities, church, and our world in this season. Let’s continue to be diligent in our practices that will help prevent the spread of virus.

Blessings as you Begin this 2021 Lenten Season.

Dr. Rev. Candace Lewis
Superintendent, Gulf Central District


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This Year: Take Up, Don’t Give Up

As long ago as 325 AD, the first ecumenical council of the church convened in Nicaea. This was the council that created and adopted what we know as the Nicene Creed. This council also established the uniform dating for Easter Sunday: the first Sunday after the first full moon after the vernal equinox. It also said there would be 40 days, not counting Sundays, of preparation before Easter, called Lent. Ash Wednesday which happened again last week, marks the start of Lent and is historically a day of fasting and repentance.

Many people talk about “giving up” something for Lent to demonstrate a sacrifice. A few years ago, I gave up coffee for Lent, and if you know me, you will understand that did not end well. I know people who have given up chocolate or desserts or any number of things. The thought behind giving up something is so we will be reminded of our distance from God and our need to restore that relationship. Lent is not an occasion to embark on a holy diet.

This year I would suggest something different. Rather than focus on what to give up, maybe we should focus on what we are going to do.

If you are not used to reading scripture, maybe Lent would be a great time to get into the habit of reading the Bible every day. Make it a positive, instead of a take-away. The same thing with praying. If prayer is not a part of your daily habits, make it one. God wants to hear from you, so have a conversation with God. At its core, that is all prayer is.

Make Lent a time when you grow closer to God by growing closer to your neighbors. Another way to do something is to make a positive change in your community. Even with the limitations of COVID-19, you can help people who are hurting. Of course, you want to do it in the most healthy and responsible way possible.

One of the downsides of being cooped up in our homes is that we become blind to the people who have been so affected during the pandemic. It can be as simple as taking canned goods to the local food bank to help restock resources or donating clothing, like socks or coats, to the local homeless shelter. You can call them in advance to see if there is anything they especially need. 

In “The Message” paraphrase of Matthew 25:40, we read, “Then those ‘sheep’ are going to say, ‘Master, what are you talking about? When did we ever see you hungry and feed you, thirsty and give you a drink? And when did we ever see you sick or in prison and come to you.’ Then the King will say, ‘I’m telling the solemn truth: Whenever you did one of these things to someone overlooked or ignored, that was me—you did it to me.’”

Rev. Mark Becker
Florida United Methodist Foundation