Church brings new view on forgiveness

Rev. John Mark Ford has prepared a series of services focusing on forgiveness. (Reporter photo/Jon Goering)


By CHRISTINE BOATWRIGHT / Staff Writer

CHELSEA – St. Catherine’s Episcopal Church in Chelsea is embarking on a 40-day Lenten celebration of forgiveness and freedom.

Rev. John Mark Ford, St. Catherine’s rector, decided to breach the Lent season with a specific focus on forgiveness.

“I want to introduce my congregation to the unburdening ourselves of some of the things that grind on us and keep us beaten down, things the church and God have offered to relieve us of,” Ford said. “I wanted to do this through this Lent series.”

Every Wednesday evening, the church will serve a simple meal of soup and bread.

“Lent is a time historically in the church of fasting and simplicity,” Ford said. “It’s a time of doing without and giving alms to the poor, a special emphasis on fasting, prayer and giving alms to the poor. We usually keep the meal very simple.”

Throughout the Lenten season, the services will vary to view the subject of forgiveness from different perspectives.

“On March 23, we have Bart Grooms, who is a psychologist, speak with us about the psychology of forgiveness. The idea is that the unburdening of ourselves and the freedom allows us to be the full people God intends us to be without that weight of guilt we carry around with us. We carry burdens we really don’t have to have,” Ford said.

“Psychologically, forgiveness can really free us from those things that can really mess with our heads,” he added. “A lot of times when we’re carrying around anger toward someone else, it’s not hurting anyone but us.”

The following week, an Episcopal priest who experienced a personal tragedy will speak of the hands-on practicality of how to forgive.

“It’s an easy thing to say, ‘I forgive you,’ but you get up the next day, and it’s there again,” Ford said. “It’s not a one-time thing. It’s a process.”

Rev. Margaret Taylor, the founding rector of Holy Apostles in Hoover, a “tremendous story teller,” will address the theology of forgiveness — both God’s forgiveness and believers’ forgiveness of each other, Ford said.

In response to the teachings throughout the 40-day season, the final Wednesday, March 13, will offer the service of the reconciliation of the penitent.

“We’re going to go through it communally. We’ll do it right at the end of the Lent right before Holy Week,” Ford said. “This whole process of Lent tracks with the 40 days Jesus spent in the wilderness. This is our time in the wilderness to learn about forgiveness.”

The services will take place each Wednesday, from March 16 through April 13, at 6:30 p.m., with children’s programs and nursery provided through each service.

“This is more of a series than a church service,” Ford said. “People don’t need to be Episcopalian to be a part of this. We’re offering it to our folks, but definitely also to the community. Anyone who’s interested in this is welcome.

“If we can offer this to our community and help some folks out with this particular issue,” Ford added, “I feel it will be a successful Lent season.”