More evangelical Protestants are observing Lent and other liturgical traditions

Posted: Friday, February 27, 2004

DALLAS (AP) The 40-day season of Lent, which began Ash Wednesday, was once observed only by Roman Catholics, the Eastern Orthodox and ''high church'' Protestants, but more evangelicals are noting the season with rituals and symbolism.

Some people ''want to do more than just come in and listen to a sermon and go home,'' said Dennis Bratcher, whose Oklahoma City-based Christian Resource Institute Web site provides resources for churches that want to adopt liturgical worship.

Bratcher said many Protestants now find they have more in common with Catholics than with an increasingly secular culture and ''we're becoming focused more on what unites us as Christians.''

Bob Wenz, U.S. ministries director with the National Association of Evangelicals sees ''a growing trend among evangelicals that is focusing more on the sensory aspects of worship rather than on the cognitive aspects'' for instance, marking foreheads with charcoal on Ash Wednesday as a sign of humility before God, or lighting Advent candles in the weeks before Christmas.

But the Rev. Gordon Atkinson, a moderate San Antonio Baptist who has followed the traditional church calendar in recent years, thinks ''the very conservative, traditional Baptist churches have been pretty resistant'' to such practices due to ''anti-Catholic feeling.''

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