Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Christians, churches prepare for Lent

Members of St. Peter’s Episcopal Church in St. Petersburg pray and sing during Shrove Tuesday in a past year. The Rev. Gigi Conner burns palms for Ash Wednesday ashes, as St. Peter’s will do this Tuesday evening. Some other congregations will buy ashes from religious stores.

Times files (2005)

Members of St. Peter’s Episcopal Church in St. Petersburg pray and sing during Shrove Tuesday in a past year. The Rev. Gigi Conner burns palms for Ash Wednesday ashes, as St. Peter’s will do this Tuesday evening. Some other congregations will buy ashes from religious stores.

Like a certain motel chain that promises to leave the light on for you, Roman Catholic churches across Tampa Bay will do the same one Wednesday evening in Lent.

The idea is to nudge Catholics to confession during the season of penitence, which begins for most Christians this week on Ash Wednesday and ends with Easter on April 12. For Orthodox Christians, the Lenten period begins March 2, culminating with Easter on April 19.

Religious leaders speak of Lent as a time of introspection, renewal and spiritual preparation.

"The whole basic purpose of Lent is to prepare yourself for Easter. You are supposed to be checking yourself out, doing a spiritual X-ray of yourself so that the meaning of Easter becomes more relevant, more personal,'' said the Rev. Wayne A. Robinson of Pilgrim Congregational United Church of Christ in St. Petersburg.

With the approach of the solemn season, area congregations have planned special sermons, classes, services and devotions. In Seminole, Faith Presbyterian Church has scheduled a spiritual renewal week for members "to be encouraged, challenged and renewed.''

"We think it is a good time of the year to reflect and look within,'' the Rev. David Miller said.

Lutheran Church of the Good Shepherd has planned a midweek series on Martin Luther's Small Catechism. Pastor Chip Salzgeber referred to it as a refresher course for adults, covering such topics as the Ten Commandments, holy baptism, confession and the Eucharist.

"I am going to make it not boring,'' he said.

With the start of Lent on Wednesday, some Christians, including Catholics, Episcopalians and Lutherans, will receive ashes on their foreheads as a mark of penitence. Though some congregations will buy ashes from religious stores, others, like St. Peter's Episcopal Cathedral in downtown St. Petersburg and Holy Family Catholic Church on the north end of town, will make their own by burning palms from last year's Palm Sunday services.

At St. Peter's, that will take place Tuesday evening, said the Rev. Gigi Conner, canon evangelist for the cathedral. After pancakes and hymns, Conner said, "We'll change the mood from joyful to being thoughtful, and then we'll go outside and burn the palms.''

At Pilgrim Congregational United Church of Christ the next day, Robinson will offer ashes to anyone who requests them between noon and 7 p.m.

"You have a lot of elderly people who don't drive at night,'' he said of his decision to give ashes for much of the day Wednesday.

While Lent begins on Wednesday, at the multicultural St. Joseph's Catholic Church in St. Petersburg's Midtown neighborhood, preparation began on Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. weekend and continued with a revival, the Rev. Timothy Sherwood said. As is traditional, the church will hold Stations of the Cross devotions during Lent. At St. Joseph's, they will take place on Wednesdays.

For many Christians, Lent is a time of self-denial. Catholics traditionally avoid meat on Fridays, making fish fries a staple at many parishes on those days. This year, the Roman Catholic Diocese of St. Petersburg is introducing an initiative aimed at getting Catholics back to confession.

Frank Murphy, director of communications for the diocese, said Bishop Robert N. Lynch has asked every church to be open for confessions at the same time on March 18. "The Light Is on for You'' campaign is inspired by a similar program the Archdiocese of Washington began in 2007.

"It's an opportunity for folks to go to confession,'' the Rev. John Tapp of Holy Family Church said.

"It's in addition to what we do every Saturday.''

Waveney Ann Moore can be reached at or (727) 892-2283.


Lenten offerings

Lake Seminole Presbyterian Church, 8505 113th St. Lenten videos, The Fourth Wise Man, 6 p.m. Ash Wednesday to March 4, and The Life and Ministry of the Messiah, 6 p.m. March 11. Call (727) 391-5509.

Pilgrim Congregational United Church of Christ, 6315 Central Ave., St. Petersburg. Ashes, noon to 7 p.m. on Ash Wednesday, followed by a service. Call (727) 347-1226.

Faith Presbyterian Church, 11501 Walker Ave., Seminole. Spiritual Renewal Week, March 22-25. Call (727) 391-0596.

Lutheran Church of the Good Shepherd, 10891 102nd Ave. N, Seminole. Martin Luther's Small Catechism classes, Wednesdays beginning Ash Wednesday, 11 a.m. and 7 p.m. Call (727) 391-4644.

Roman Catholic Diocese of St. Petersburg. "The Light Is on for You'' campaign, confessions heard at every Catholic church, 5:30 to 8 p.m. March 18. Go to

St. Andrew Lutheran Church, 1901 62nd Ave. S, St. Petersburg. Ash Wednesday service with ashes at 6:45 p.m., and Lenten services at 6:45 p.m. Wednesdays March 4 to April 1. The theme will be "Am I Guilty?" Soup suppers, 6 p.m. Call (727) 864-3103

Christians, churches prepare for Lent 02/21/09 [Last modified: Saturday, February 21, 2009 3:30am]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Encounters: Trial by storm for a rookie principal


    DUNEDIN — When he nodded off to sleep, the hallway lights outside Michael Vasallo's office were on, so the sudden darkness woke him.

    The glow of his desk phone dimmed.

    Michael Vasallo, right, the first-year principal at Dunedin Highland Middle School, talks with the school's head plant operator Clint Case near the back-up generator on campus. The generator failed just as Hurricane Irma passed through Pinellas County, making for a stressful night. The experience made Vasallo long to return to his regular job, educating middle schoolers. [COLEEN WRIGHT   |   Times]

  2. Who is in charge during a hurricane? Hillsborough County and Tampa still can't agree


    TAMPA — Who has the authority to order an evacuation during a hurricane?

    Mayor Bob Buckhorn says he has evacuation authority.
  3. Gators rally past Kentucky, streak hits 31


    LEXINGTON, Ky. — For the second week in a row, Florida found itself storming the field in a game that came down to the last second. A 57-yard field-goal attempt by Kentucky kicker Austin MacGinnis came just a few feet short of making history and snapping a 30-year losing streak, as the No. 20 Gators escaped a …

    Florida wide receiver Brandon Powell (4) scores a touchdown during the second half of an NCAA college football game against Kentucky, Saturday, Sept. 23, 2017, in Lexington, Ky.
  4. Pen makes it way too interesting as Rays hang on for 9-6 win


    A couple of home runs provided the news pegs of the night for the Rays, but it was more topical to talk about what nearly happened as they hung on for a 9-6 win over the Orioles.

    Lucas Duda's three-run homer in the third inning was the Rays' record-breaking 217th of the season, as well as his …

  5. An attempt to project what Rays will look like in 2018

    The Heater

    BALTIMORE — We know what the Rays look like this year: a team that had enough talent but too many flaws, in construction and performance, and in the next few days will be officially eliminated from a wild-card race it had a chance to win but let slip away.

    Adeiny Hechavarria, high-fiving Lucas Duda, seems likely to be brought back.