By Rev. Dr. Sunny Brown Farley

Should we feast on chocolates or give them up for Lent?

This year, the faithful will witness the convergence of Valentine’s Day and Ash Wednesday. While the former is marked with flowers and dinner dates, the latter is predominantly observed with fasting and spiritual disciplines.

The two holidays coincide, however, on a central theme: Love.

Leaders in the Texas Annual Conference say they will preach on the commitment between God and God’s people this Ash Wednesday.

“I will be talking all about God’s love,” Rev. Ingrid Akers said. “I always talk about God’s love and it is very appropriate this year.”

Akers said she has joked with her congregation about marking their foreheads with hearts instead of crosses this year, but she plans to lead a traditional Ash Wednesday service at Lake Palestine United Methodist Church.

Ash Wednesday – the first day of the 40-day season of Lent and a time in which Christians prepare their hearts and minds for Easter – rarely falls on Feb. 14. While Valentine’s Day is on Feb. 14 every year, Ash Wednesday is determined by lunar cycles.

Easter is celebrated on the first Sunday after the first full moon following the spring equinox. Ash Wednesday is always 46 days earlier.

Lent is just 40 days because Sundays aren’t counted. Sundays are mini-Easters or the Easter of the week in Wesleyan theology, so the reverence of the Lenten season is tempered with the anticipation of the coming resurrection of Christ.

Traditional Ash Wednesday services typically include prayer, somber music, confession and pardon, a sermon and the imposition of ashes (when the leader marks the foreheads of participants with a cross of ash derived from the burning of the previous year’s Palm Sunday palms), which is a reminder that “you are dust and to dust you shall return.”

Rev. Adam Muckleroy, pastor at First UMC Canton, is preparing a worship experience focused on yet another theme often associated with both Valentine’s Day and Ash Wednesday: Covenant.

He said he plans to combine the Wesley Covenant Renewal Service and the traditional Ash Wednesday Service.

For the past few weeks, his church has been engaged in a Bible Study focused on the Wesleyan principles associated with the Christian relationship to God.

“We have talked about confiding in God, repentance, acknowledging the human need for grace and faithfully living in covenant with God,” Muckleroy said. “It’s a simple concept for us, but something I thought was meaningful. The idea is to focus more on God and not just to give something up for Lent.”

This relationship “takes on the vow of the covenant in walking with God daily,” he said. The Lenten season will end on Easter Sunday, March 31. Ash Wednesday and Valentine’s Day will land on the same day one more time this century – in 2029.

Learn more about Ash Wednesday and find worship resources and information for churches at: