Interfaith service in Charles will mark beginning of Lent

To usher in Lent, some area churches are having an interfaith celebration to remind people of the meaning of the season.

The Rev. Laurie Gates-Ward, pastor of Good Shepherd United Methodist Church in Waldorf, said her congregation and others in the area typically host a joint Ash Wednesday celebration to commemorate the beginning of Lent, the 40-day period in which Christians are asked to reflect on Jesus’s suffering in the desert, as well as their personal struggles.

This year’s event has a different twist. Lynn McCoy, a representative from Jews for Jesus, will speak on “Christ in the Passover” and talk about how Jewish and Christian traditions overlap, even if many do not realize the connection.

“This is a really good way to bring the understanding that as Christians, our root is in Judaism,” Gates-Ward said.

Gates-Ward has been the pastor at Good Shepherd since July. She said that while she presided over a church in Baltimore, her congregation had hosted McCoy. Given the success of that presentation, she wanted her Waldorf congregation to have the same opportunity.

“Christ was deeply connected to the Israelite understanding of the Seder meal as a release from slavery, and we view Christ as our release,” Gates-Ward said. “He becomes our paschal lamb. We view his blood as our release from our shackles.”

McCoy said the service, which is among her most-requested presentations, lets Christians better understand their roots.

“It is important for Christians to understand the origins of their Communion services, which comes directly from the Passover,” McCoy said in an e-mail. “Most Christians do not realize that the Easter celebration was part of the Passover for years after Jesus’s death. But unbelievers also come and hear these presentations, and begin to understand theological truths, such as the triune nature of God, which draws them to faith in Jesus.”

During the presentation, McCoy said, she assembles a traditional Passover table to help strengthen understanding.

“Christ in the Passover shows the link between the ancient Festival of Redemption and Christ as the Lamb of God,” McCoy said in the e-mail.

Gates-Ward emphasized that the presentation is open to people of all faiths.

The United Methodist Churches of Waldorf will host a joint Ash Wednesday celebration at 7 p.m. Feb. 13 at Good Shepherd United Methodist Church, 305 E. Smallwood Drive, Waldorf.

The event will feature a Passover presentation by Lynn McCoy of Jews for Jesus. The event is open to people of all faith traditions.

Go to GSUMC.com for more information or call 301-843-6797.

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