Pastor Tony Lankford, right, administers ashes during an Ash Wednesday service today at Park Avenue Baptist Church in Atlanta.
Pastor Tony Lankford, right, administers ashes during an Ash Wednesday service today at Park Avenue Baptist Church in Atlanta.

Baptists mark Ash Wednesday

Social media hints that increasing number of Baptist congregations are observing the day and the Lenten season it ushers in.

By Jeff Brumley

Baptists are increasingly observing Lent this year if Facebook is any indication, with news feeds filled with announcements of morning, afternoon and evening Ash Wednesday services today.

Among the first were the folks at Park Avenue Baptist Church in Atlanta, where Lead Pastor Tony Lankford found himself smudging people’s foreheads with ash before they headed off to work.

“It’s a way for us to simply mark the beginning of an intentional season in our discipleship life,” Lankford said. “It’s the way to mark the start of a new focus and a new season.”

Lent is a roughly six-week period leading up to Easter, which this year falls on March 31.

While long associated with Catholic and various liturgical Protestant denominations, its observance has spread in recent years to traditions known more for avoiding liturgical seasons than embracing them. Participating Baptists say they’ve discovered Lent deepens their relationship with Christ and heightens the anticipation of Easter.

That started for Brandon Hudson shortly after high school when the lifelong Southern Baptist from west Texas was exposed to Lent while visiting a Methodist church.

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“I didn’t have any idea what Lent was,” said Hudson, pastor at Northwest Baptist Church in Winston-Salem, N.C.

Before that discovery, it always seemed that Easter just suddenly appeared out of the blue each year with no devotional or liturgical preparation.

“I didn’t have any concept of a journey or … that Maundy Thursday and Good Friday were stops on the way to Easter,” said Hudson, who blogged on the experience today for ABPnews.

The church Hudson now shepherds is steeped in Lenten practices, and even offers an online devotional resource written by staff and lay members called “Re:votional.”

Today, the church is adding a second Ash Wednesday service geared to young children, Hudson said, adding that he doesn’t want them to miss out on Lent in their childhood as he did in his.

“I would like for kids to be part of that experience,” he said. “I want them to grow up with these forms and patterns.”