The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America


Keeping Lent on campus

The 40-day journey through Lent to Easter begins tomorrow with services of prayer and penitence. Many who worship will have crosses traced on their foreheads, as the ancient words from the liturgy for this day are repeated, “Remember you are dust and to dust you will return.” ELCA campus pastor Lloyd Kittlaus tells how college students make that journey.

As ELCA members go to church on Ash Wednesday, students on many campuses will do likewise. If recent patterns hold at Northwestern University, Evanston, Ill., where I serve as Lutheran campus pastor, they will do so in considerable numbers. Among these students will be some whom we have not seen in awhile and others whom we’ve not yet met.

The first opportunity of the day offered by University Lutheran, the campus congregation that is the ELCA’s ministry to Northwestern, will be a 20-minute service of confession and ashes, timed to allow students to participate and still get to their 9 a.m. classes. On the following Wednesdays, like many congregations, we will offer a soup-and-bread supper and then evening prayer. Students will lead both the liturgy and discussion of the Bible readings during these brief services.

One of the challenges of keeping Lent at Northwestern is the university’s quarter-system schedule, which means Lent always is cut in two by a week of winter-quarter exams and a week of spring break. Thus undergraduates miss at least one part and, in some cases, two of any theme that we develop. Some also will be absent from our services on Good Friday and Easter Day since they go home after Friday classes to be with family for the Easter celebration.

Despite such challenges we, too, approach Lent as a unitary season of preparing for Easter and annually find that this observance brings our largely student community several benefits. One is that more will become regular in daily Bible reading and prayer. Another is that some will be prompted to deepen their practice of self-denial and sacrifice, beyond what they have been accustomed to “giving up” for Lent.

An age-specific benefit can be the reminder of our mortality conveyed by the words spoken on Lent’s first day, as an ashen cross is traced upon their foreheads. Several students have reported that this reminder prompted their reconsidering the feelings of invincibility that too easily allow youth and young adults to engage in risky behaviors, with little thought to their potential consequences.

Lastly, in a context in which the experience of human diversity can be used to validate Lutherans’ reluctance to give witness to our faith, some students will become at least a bit more bold and forthcoming through some of the acts of faith in which they will have participated—wearing the ashes for the rest of the day on Ash Wednesday, joining in our Palm Sunday procession that starts on campus and walking the ecumenical Stations of the Cross around campus on Good Friday.

This week's front page features:

Making the most of movies: Look at films through a spiritual lens. (Photo at right.)

Wave eco-friendly palms: Project helps congregations support sustainable harvesting.

OK, we’ll play: Seminary offers course based on The DaVinci Code.

Growing in faith: Bonsai gardener learns patience.

Also: Presiding bishop: A Lenten invitation: Truth-telling opens the way to reconciliation.

Also: Our faith: Hard-wired for joy: In good times and bad, we can rejoice in the Lord.

Also: A Bible for roughing it.

Read these articles at our front page > > >

This week in our discussion forums:

It's Oscar week, and Frederic and Mary Ann Brussat (right) join our discussion boards to talk with The Lutheran's readers about the most spiritual movies of the past year.

In addition to "Spiritual practices," the Brussats write The Lutheran's "Best this month" column, which frequently features films.

Join them today through March 7 to talk about your favorite (and least favorite) movies of the past year, those up for Academy Awards and those you think should have been nominated.

(If you haven't yet read the Brussats' picks for the five most spiritual movies of 2005, check out "Making the most of movies" in our March issue.)

Join the discusson > > >

This week on our blog:

Andrea Pohlmann writes about unselfish kids.

Elizabeth Hunter blogs about lunchtime at a Lutheran school in Kenya's Rift Valley Province.

Amber Leberman writes about lies and statistics and invites blog-readers to guess how many people visit The Lutheran's blog each month.

Kathleen Kastilahn (right) blogs about her plans to bid on Trading Graces, the first online auction of Lutheran Services in America, which continues through March 8.

Elizabeth Hunter writes about nanotechnology and tells readers where to find articles on the subject by Lutheran scientists and theologians.

Check out our blog > > >

Last chance to enter our Web site contest:

Today is the last day to enter our "Is your congregation's Web site one of the ELCA's 10 best?" contest.

If you'd  like to enter your congregation's site, follow the instructions here.

If you'd like to nominate a site, simply send the Web address to Amber Leberman.

Or respond on-line > > >

Last chance to tell us how faith changes:

Tomorrow is the final day to tell us how faith changes through the course of our lives.

Describe your faith journey, giving special attention to events in your life that have shaped it. What tools (practices, passages, elements of worship, hymns, etc.) have been helpful in strengthening it? Please send your 300- to 400-word responses to Julie Sevig by March 1.

Or respond on-line > > >

Subscribe to The Lutheran magazine:

Did you know: An individual subscription to The Lutheran magazine is only $15.95 a year and includes a Web Premium membership at no additional cost?

For only $15.95 you'll receive 12 issues of The Lutheran magazine in your mailbox. You'll also receive access to back issues' articles since 1996 and unlimited study guide downloads (regularly $3.50 each) at www.thelutheran.org.

(Congregational subscriptions begin at $7.95 and include Web Standard memberships. Call Augsburg Fortress, Publishers, for details about our congregational plans. 1-800-328-4648.)

Subscribe to The Lutheran > > >


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February issue


Embracing diversity