For many in Montclair, Ash Wednesday and Lent will be in person once again
By DIEGO JESUS BARTESAGHI MENA
Montclair-area churches are getting ready for Lent — the 40 days of observance that for many Christians includes prayer, fasting and almsgiving. For some who observe, it’ll mean returning to in-person services, including ash distributions, for the first time in the pandemic.
“It is a time to acknowledge our own mortality and to reconnect with the Lord,” the Rev. Ann Rolosky, lead pastor for worship and congregational transformation at the First Congregational Church, said.
Lent begins on Ash Wednesday, March 2, and continues through Thursday, April 14.
Rolosky said that for her congregation, this Ash Wednesday will be conducted in person as well as livestreamed, after two years of virtual-only services in the pandemic. She said the service will begin at 7:30 p.m. at the church, located at 40 South Fullerton Ave.
She invited anyone to join the church’s labyrinth prayer — a meditative, “walking prayer” through a path on the church floor. First Congregational’s labyrinth is modeled on one in Chartres Cathedral in France, and sits at the center of the sanctuary.
But Rolosky said taking part in that more intimate prayer experience isn’t required; anyone can still join at the pews as well.
She said the service will also have live Taizé music, a prayerful form of music that originated in the Taizé community in France in the 1940s, and will be available online at facebook.com/FCCMontclair.
Rolosky said throughout Lent, the church will have its Sunday services. During Holy Week, the church will also hold a series of events. On March 16, it’ll screen the documentary “The Sacrifice Zone,” which talks about environmental racism in Newark. That will be followed by a conversation about the film led by the Rev. John Rogers, lead pastor for spiritual formation and community development.
St. James Episcopal Church, located at 581 Valley Road in Upper Montclair, will have two in-person services on Ash Wednesday, at noon and 7 p.m., the Rev. Melissa Hall said. The service will also be available through Zoom. The link will be sent through the church’s weekly newsletter. To subscribe to the newsletter, sign up at stjamesepiscopal.org, click on the “news” tab and scroll down to “weekly E-blast.”
The church will also be hosting an art installation reflecting the 14 Stations of the Cross. Hall said the installation, “The Doors Project,” began as a creative way to reflect on that tragic and historical event in the life of Jesus.
“These stations are believed to be the touch points of the actual journey that Jesus made on Good Friday, his arrests through his judgment, persecution, execution and finally burial in the tomb,” she said.
Hall said actual doors will be on display on the front lawn of St. James for two weeks starting on April 10.
“As we talked about and explored the possibilities of ‘The Doors Project,’ we understand that the observance of Good Friday and the Stations of the Cross is not the tradition of all people,” Hall said.
“However, doors are a universal experience for all people.”
She said doors define boundaries — they shut out the world, or welcome it. They can mark the beginning of a relationship, or the separation of those inside and outside. She said a front door can also be the first statement of who we are — signified by the colors we choose, and whether we adorn them with welcome mats or doorbell cameras.
“They can also be an entrance to terror-filled moments, such as sitting outside of an ICU, or the joy of entering a birthing suite to bring a child into the world,” Hall said. “No two doors are alike; no two doors serve the same meaning. Doors can have infinite interpretations, and although they can be common, they can be very unique.”
She invites everyone, regardless of religion or spiritual belief, to visit the art installation and experience it, not necessarily as a Christian, but as a human.
“A door is not just a surface but rather a statement, a commentary, an identity, a boundary. It can be a portal to the end of times or countless possibilities of new beginnings,” Hall said. “Come and wander on the front lawn of St. James. Through the art, poetry, narrative and other creative expressions shown on the doors, experience, wonder, laugh, cry and learn.”
Redeemer Montclair Church, located at 19 North Willow St., will not be holding a service for Ash Wednesday, but the church will be holding services on Good Friday, on April 15 at 7 p.m., and an Easter morning service on April 17 at 10 a.m., the church’s administrator, Loretta DiQuattro, said. Services are available in person, or online at redeemermontclair.com.
St. Cassian Roman Catholic Church, 187 Bellevue Ave., will have Ash Wednesday ashes distribution during Masses at 8:15 a.m. and 7:30 p.m., as well as separate ash distributions at 12:05 and 4 p.m., according to administrator Mary Cavagnaro.
Union Congregational Church, at 176 Cooper Ave., will hold services on Ash Wednesday at 1 and 7 p.m. The services will be held in-person and will be livestreamed on the church’s YouTube page (search “UnionCong1”).
The Presbyterian Church of Upper Montclair at 53 Norwood Ave. will hold an in-person service on Ash Wednesday at 7:30 p.m. Masks and social distancing will be required. Livestreams of services will be available at pcum.org.
Union Baptist Church, at 12 Midland Ave., will be holding an online service on Ash Wednesday at 6 a.m. The link will be sent to the church’s contacts list. To join the contacts list, said Yvette Folkes, executive assistant to the senior pastor, call the church directly at 973-746-3270 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
First Lutheran Church of Montclair, at 153 Park St., is currently holding only online services, according to a recorded message at its office number. Attendees can request a Zoom link by calling the office at 973-744-6043.
Montclair Local left messages with First Lutheran, First United Methodist Church at 24 North Fullerton Ave., St. John’s Episcopal Church at 55 Montclair Ave., St. Mark’s United Methodist Church at 51 Elm St. and Grace Presbyterian Church at 153 Grove St. Friday seeking more information about their services, and is awaiting their responses.
Additionally, a message left Feb. 18 with St. Teresa of Calcutta Parish, which includes Immaculate Conception Roman Catholic Church at 30 North Fullerton Ave. and Our Lady of Mount Carmel Church at 94 Pine St., hasn't yet been returned (the church office was closed that day).
Raffaele Marzullo, of the community outreach program of OLMC parishioners, said that if Sunday Mass resumes on the first Sunday of Lent (March 6), the program will host the Stations of the Cross for the parish at OLMC on March 11, 18 and 25 and on April 1. Stations would be preceded at 6 p.m. with soup (with two non-meat offerings), bread, salad, snack and beverages for all attendees.
But the church has been on an abridged Mass schedule since reopening last year, and Marzullo said he didn’t yet know if Mass was planned.
This post will be updated to reflect plans for services at those churches not yet reached by Montclair Local as information becomes available.