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In some traditions, Lenten practices are clearly established. Fasting and feasting happen at times that have been established for hundreds of years. There’s a beauty in this kind of ordered discipline. One knows exactly what to do and what to expect throughout the 40-day Lenten season. However, for some of us, our ecclesial tradition does not provide such clear guidance. We must discern what God is calling us to do and how God is calling us to live in this season of waiting and watching. What kind of Lent is this?

Traditionally, we approach Lent with an eye toward giving up and letting go. If we are privileged to live within certain socioeconomic realities, we must admit that giving up and letting go is not a bad idea. Excess and indulgence are hallmarks of our time. It might be transformational for us to go without something for 40 days.

In recent years, you may have noticed that not everyone is thinking about what to relinquish during Lent. Some Christians are wrestling with what they need to start or initiate. The word “acedia” means “spiritual sloth.” It’s a state of not caring or being unconcerned with one’s spiritual well-being or the condition of the world. In a world where there is so much to occupy our attention, sometimes it is easier to do nothing. When there are so many causes to care about, it’s simpler to care less. Binge-watch a few more episodes and call it a night.

During Lent, we can repent of acedia by leaning in to that which makes us more fully alive. Whether we need to let go or lean in, Lent is a gift. What kind of Lent is this for you?

Resources

What if faith-based organizations focused on being kinder this Lent?

Institutions, like individuals, might try intentionally practicing “unusual kindness,” writes a director of programs and grants at Leadership Education at Duke Divinity.

By Mycal X. Brickhouse

This Lent, turning again and again to God and one another

When a church turned away from musician Steve Bell and his family, inmates at the federal prison where his father was a chaplain turned toward them, welcoming their brokenness and helping Bell discover a gift from God and a vision for what church can be.

By Gretchen E. Ziegenhals

WOOPing a meaningful Lent: Seeking joy through changing behaviors

A practice to promote well-being offers the possibility of joy despite brokenness.

By Kelly Ryan

Not giving up in Lent

If it’s February, it’s probably Lent. And that doesn’t always mean giving up something, writes an Episcopal priest. Sometimes, dealing with the season’s built-in emotional challenges is enough.

By Rhonda Mawhood Lee


Before you go…

Perhaps this prayer of Thomas Merton can be a useful part of our Lenten discipline, no matter what kind of Lent this is for us:

My Lord God, 
I have no idea where I am going. 
I do not see the road ahead of me. 
I cannot know for certain where it will end. 
nor do I really know myself, 
and the fact that I think I am following your will 
does not mean that I am actually doing so. 
But I believe that the desire to please you 
does in fact please you. 
And I hope I have that desire in all that I am doing. 
I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire.

And I know that if I do this you will lead me by the right road,

though I may know nothing about it. 
Therefore will I trust you always though 
I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death.

I will not fear, for you are ever with me, 
and you will never leave me to face my perils alone. 

You can always reach me and the Alban Weekly team at alban@duke.edu. Until next week, keep leading!

Prince Rivers

Editor, Alban at Duke Divinity


In 2024, Leadership Education at Duke Divinity plans to award upwards of 30 Reflective Leadership Grants, which provide Christian leaders “balcony time” to reflect on accomplishments, broaden perspectives and discern next steps.

We welcome applicants who serve in a range of leadership roles, from project director to senior administrator, and who are working in a variety of organizations, including denominations, seminaries, church-related colleges, consultancies, congregations, Christian nonprofits, Christian social enterprises and others. The application deadline is May 28, 2024.

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