Christians around the world are beginning a 40 day spiritual journey that ends on Easter. In South Mississippi, many of the faithful are heading to church this Ash Wednesday to reflect on how to strengthen their relationships with God.
For Carter Bise, a Christian, Ash Wednesday is a time to renew his commitment to his faith.
"It's a reminder that God is always sacrificing for us," said Bise. "Second, it's a reminder to me to consciously remember that we are asked to do justice and to love mercy and to walk humbly before God."
Members of First United Methodist Church of Gulfport say the Lenten season allows them to reflect on their many blessings.
Church member E. A. Allen said, "It's just the beginning of the season where I concentrate more fully on my God and try to be in more of a spiritual mind to get ready for Easter."
Rev. Andy Johnson says the ashes symbolize repentance for sins, and Lent is about a new spiritual beginning, either by giving up something, or giving more to others.
"Maybe praying or reading a certain section of scripture, or maybe taking on an issue of justice. Serving in a soup kitchen or some type of ministry in our community that they would not do normally as a way of entering into Lent and a spiritual discipline," said Rev. Andy Johnson. "
How ever Christians mark Lent, Reverend Johnson says the impact often lasts longer than 40 days.
"What we find is that some times we can live without that thing and we give it up. Or what we take on, we find, is more important to us than something else, so we keep it as a discipline for the rest of our lives," Rev. Johnson said.
First United Methodist Church of Gulfport will have Lenten luncheons every Thursday up until Easter.