It’s been nearly five weeks, and Marie Marthol-Clark is still fighting the temptation to have meat and dairy products for lunch.
“It’s really hard,” she said last week. “The temptation is high. But I like struggling with that.”
Marthol-Clark is a Germantown resident and member of Enon Tabernacle Baptist Church, a rapidly growing mega-church at 2800 W. Cheltenham Ave. in the city’s Cedarbrook section.
She is participating in “The 40 Day Journey,” an initiative started by the church six years ago and meant to lead its 6,000 members in the spiritual discipline of fasting during the Lenten season.
“I have never done this before,” said Marthol-Clark, a health educator at Germantown’s Center in the Park. “It’s a great challenge and opportunity to grow yourself.”
Enon’s Lenten fast is based on the Biblical account of the 40 days Jesus spent in the wilderness. The fast does not require members to abstain from eating. Rather, it provides guidelines for what specific food and drink choices a member should make.
Deserts, soft drinks, caffeine, meat, fish, poultry, dairy products and eggs are to be avoided. Recommended choices include vegetables and pure fruit juices, along with vitamin, mineral and protein supplements.
Church members can choose to take part for 40 straight days or fast for six days and take Sunday off. Enon leaves the decision up to the individual and encourages members to consult a doctor or pharmacist before starting.
A time of reflection
During her own Lenten journey, Marthol-Clark has used the fast to count her blessings.
“I have reflected on how far God has covered me, how much He has brought me through,” she said.
Members are encouraged to keep a journal during the fast, reflecting on any inspiration and messages that come to them during their journey.
“My reflections make me realize that confidence that God has given me,” said Marthol-Clark. “Tough times may come, but I am covered and will be OK.”
In a posting on the church’s website, the Rev. Dr. Alyn E.Waller, the senior pastor, described the Lenten fast as a time for people to cultivate deeper relationships in their lives.
“We fast so that we change,” he wrote. “Then, we help others to change. It’s about cultivating community!”
Marthol-Clark can relate to that message.
“It helps talking with other members,” she said. “Everyone is struggling through it. We ask each other, ‘How is it going for you?’ It really creates a feeling of camaraderie.”
To support people as they are fasting, Enon offers classes, literature, Web –based information, recipes and conference calls. Staff member Anita Coleman calls it “the full spectrum of taking care of the Temple of God.”
The Lenten program will conclude at 10 a.m. on Easter Sunday with a worship service at the Liacouras Center on the Temple University campus on North Broad Street.
Enon’s own sanctuary, which seats 5,000, is too small to accommodate the expected crowd. Marthol-Clark said she expects to be there.
GermantownBeat, a NewsWorks content partner, is a local news Web site produced by student journalists at La Salle University. The editors of GermantownBeat are assistant professors in La Salle’s Communication Department. NewsWorks will feature the students’ work on its Northwest Philadelphia community sites, and provide training and advice in multimedia journalism to the program.