Ash Wednesday (Year C)

Call to Worship

This Lenten journey is a process, a commitment, a labor of love.
We must be prepared for resurrection.
We must wait for it with penitent hearts.

With ashes we are marked to remind us of our mortality,
to remind us of our desperate need of God’s eternal life.
With dust we are sealed into the ground from which we came.     
But from that same ground, that empty tomb, comes new life.
But not yet.  
We must wait in prayer,
We must wait in penitence.
We must wait in patience.
Resurrection is coming.
But not yet.
We must prepare.
We must wait.
First comes the journey to which Christ calls us.
Come, let us begin this Lenten journey.

Prayer of the Day

Merciful God,
here we are - 
the ashes are ready to be smeared;
the songs are ready to be sung;
our sins are ready to be confessed;
our Savior, we are ready to follow.
The day of the Lord is coming,
and, before it, we are trembling
for the journey is long and it requires much:
and patience.
Through the power of your Spirit,
guide us that we may be filled with these gift
and follow your Son with sure feet
and welcome resurrection when it gifts us with her presence.  Amen.

Call to Confession

God desires that we return with all our heart.
Let us turn together from that which keeps us from God
to that which brings us closer to God’s will.


Have mercy on us, O Lord, according to your steadfast love,
Blot out that which has kept us from you - 
the sins of things we have done,
and the sins of things we have left undone.
Wash us for our sin is ever before you.
Any sin against a fellow brother or sister is, in fact,
a sin against you and, for that, we beg your forgiveness.
Through your power alone can we be made clean.
Create in us a clean heart, O God,
and put a new and right spirit within us.
We crave your forgiveness
and have no hope in this life - or the next - without it.
Forgive us, Lord, and our lips will declare your praise!
This we pray in your holy and merciful name.  Amen.

Assurance of Pardon

Psalm 51 tells us that the sacrifice acceptable to God is a broken spirit.
Together, we have confessed the broken things within us
and God’s mercy has restored our souls.
I proclaim to you this day, our sins have been forgiven. Amen.

Prayer for Illumination

Spirit of all Wisdom,
we desire to be reconciled to your will in our world.
Remove any obstacles before us
that would keep us from understanding your Word.
On this Lenten journey, guide our footsteps
that we might follow the path of Christ to the cross.  Amen.

Prayer of Great Thanksgiving

The Lord be with you.  And also with you.
Lift up your hearts.  We lift them to the Lord.
Let us give thanks to the Lord our God.
It is right to give our thanks and praise.

God of all goodness and grace,
we have gathered on this solemn night,
to smear our foreheads with ashes,
and to be bluntly reminded of our mortality.
You formed us from dust and to dust we shall return.
Even amidst the solemnity of this evening,
we give you thanks for calling us your children.
We give you thanks for calling us on this journey.
We remember on this dark evening,
that we are human and you alone are God.
In this season of Lent, 
we gather on a journey of trust - 
trust that your creation does not end with our death.
Indeed, your creation knows no boundaries,
and, yet, we are bound inevitably to your will and your Word.  

With all creation, in every time and place,
we join the everlasting chorus:
Holy, holy, holy Lord, God of power and might.

Heaven and earth are full of your glory.  
Hosanna in the highest.

Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.  

Hosanna in the highest.  Hosanna in the highest.

Standing between past and future,
we remember the journey we will take again
while we wait for that blessed Easter.
We remember Jesus' birth into poverty.
We remember how he grew up in wisdom and in years - 
how he invited disciples to follow him,
how he stood up to the powers that be,
how he touched the sinner and challenged the saint,
how he preached good news to the poor and marginalized,
how he cared as much for people's bodies as he did their souls.

We remember how he gathered his friends on the night he was betrayed,
how he took the bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to his disciples saying:
"take, eat, do this in remembrance of me."

Likewise, he took the cup and, pouring it, said:
"this is the cup of salvation, shed in my blood, for the forgiveness of sins.
Do this in remembrance of me."

For as long as we eat this bread and drink this cup,
we proclaim the resurrection of our living savior until he comes again.

Together, we proclaim the mystery of faith:
Christ has died, Christ is risen, Christ will come again.

Gracious God,
we give you thanks for your gifts of bread and juice
and ask that they may transform us to your presence.
We give you thanks that, even though we will return to dust,
you nevertheless invite us to this meal as a friend.
Though we are not worthy of the grace received here,
we are invited as the most beloved of companions.
Send your Spirit to abide with us that we may abide with you.

Through Christ, in Christ, with Christ,
all glory and honor are yours, Holy God,
both now and forever. Amen.


Stephen Fearing

Stephen was born in 1988 in Cookeville, TN, where his parents met whilst attending Tennessee Tech. Shortly after, they moved to Dalton, Georgia where they put down roots and joined First Presbyterian Church, the faith family that taught Stephen that he was first and foremost a beloved child of God. It was this community that taught Stephen that it was OK to have questions and doubts and that nothing he could do could every possibly separate him from the love of God. In 1995, his sister, Sarah Kate, joined the family and Stephen began his journey as a life-long musician. Since then, he has found a love of music and has found this gift particularly fitting for his call to ministry. Among the instruments that he enjoys are piano, trumpet, guitar, and handbells. Stephen has always had a love of singing and congregation song. An avid member of the marching band, Stephen was the drum major of his high school's marching band. In 2006, Stephen began his tenure at Presbyterian College in Clinton, SC where he majored in Religion and minored in History. While attending PC, Stephen continued to explore his love of music by participating in the Wind Ensemble, Jazz Band, Jazz Combo, Jazz Trio, as well as playing in the PC Handbell ensemble and playing mandolin and banjo PC's very own bluegrass/rock group, Hosegrass, of which Stephen was a founding member (Hosegrass even released their own CD!). In 2010, Stephen moved from Clinton to Atlanta to attend Columbia Theological Seminary to pursue God's call on his life to be a pastor in the PC(USA). During this time, Stephen worked at Trinity Presbyterian Church, Silver Creek Presbyterian Church, Central Presbyterian Church, and Westminster Presbyterian Church. For three years, Stephen served as the Choir Director of Columbia Theological Seminary's choir and also served as the Interim Music Director at Westminster Presbyterian Church. In 2014, Stephen graduated from Columbia with a Masters of Divinity and a Masters of Arts in Practical Theology with an emphasis in liturgy, music, and worship. In July of 2014, Stephen was installed an ordained as Teaching Elder at Shelter Island Presbyterian Church in Shelter Island, NY. Later that year, Stephen married the love of his life, Tricia, and they share their home on Shelter Island with their Golden Doodle, Elsie, and their calico cat, Audrey. In addition to his work with the people who are Shelter Island Presbyterian Church, Stephen currently serves as a commission from Long Island Presbytery to the Synod of the Northeast and, beginning in January of 2016, will moderate the Synod's missions team.