With nearly half a century of Baptist heritage, Belmont University will recognize an observance more traditionally seen in a more liturgical setting – the beginning of Lent.
Today, university ministries will recognize Ash Wednesday with a service co-led by Bishop David Choby of the Catholic Diocese of Nashville.
Vice President of Spiritual Development Todd Lake said the service and the season of Lent that follows it is a way for Christians of varying denominations to focus on their faith in advance of Easter.
“As a Christian campus, we want to be sure that we learn from each other how to grow deeper in our love of God, and more consistent and creative in how we love our neighbors as ourselves,” Lake said in an email. “Lent provides a time for us to turn away from what distracts us, and toward Christ, who says to each of us, ‘Follow Me!’
Since Belmont’s first Ash Wednesday service in 2009, the number of students who have participated in the annual service has grown along with the university’s recognition of the day and season. Last year, University Ministries and the Office of Spiritual Development also published Belmont’s first-ever lenten guide. More than 50 pages long, the guide details daily Scripture devotions, prayers, and student reflections.
“I think that Christians are learning that we can all benefit from the best from each denomination’s practices,” Lake said. “This allows us to ‘keep our eyes fixed on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith.”
What is Lent? According to the Christian liturgical calendar, or “church”calendar, Lent marks a 40-day period, excluding Sundays, between Ash Wednesday and Easter Sunday. Echoing the biblical notion of a forty day period, the 40 days of Lent represent the days that the New Testament says Jesus spent in the desert, being tempted by Satan. To help prepare for Easter, Christians everywhere consciously give up a sin during Lent, to subject themselves to temptation in a way similar to how Jesus was tempted.
Though Lent is one of the oldest Christian traditions, precedence for it cannot be found either in the canonical teachings of Jesus or the New Testament’s descriptions of the 1st century church. For a denomination of Christianity that prides itself on its foundations in the notion of “sola scriptura” (“scripture alone,” or the idea that faith practices should be based on Biblical principles only) Lent has not found favor with Baptist or many other Protestant branches of Christianity since they were established.