February 17 was Ash Wednesday on the Christian calendar. It begins the 40 days of Lent leading up to Easter. A day after Ash Wednesday I had lunch with a fellow UU. Like a lot of UUs, he and I are in different places on the “Atheist – Theist” scale. We have lively theological conversations. He was raised Jewish, me Catholic.
I told him that for several years two other UU Wellspring grads and I have shared some type of Lenten practice for the 40 days. This has taken different forms. Some years we’ve met every week to talk about what we’ve given up; this year, we are sharing one of the many online Lenten email courses. We are reading them alone each day. Yet knowing we are all reading the same thing creates a feeling of community. Occasionally we’ll email one another, but it’s sporadic. It’s quite lovely.
My lunch friend wonders how we theologically justify this, since we are UUs. Oddly we three have never talked about whether or not we believe in the bodily resurrection of Jesus. Nor have we talked about our feelings about Atonement, or whether the Passion needed to happen or was simply a political act. The literalness doesn’t seem to matter.
What does seem important to us is the 40-day practice of intentionally going inward. Of humbly listening for that Wise Inner Voice, whatever name we give it. Lent is a time of preparation, of waiting. Of listening. In community.
We learned a lot about these skills and attitudes in Wellspring. I’m so happy we’ve found a creative way to use an ancient liturgical practice to keep our spiritual deepening alive now that we are Wellspring “graduates.”