Wordling Through the Season of Lent

March 07, 2022
The Lenten season has begun as churches observe the 40 days between Ash Wednesday and Holy Saturday, the day before Easter. The Lenten season begins with ashes in the sign of the cross and includes many devotions designed to help us focus on our relationship with Jesus. 

It is a season of preparation, self-examination, and reflection.

For the congregation of Asbury United Methodist Church in Bossier City, LA, the Lenten season has been puzzling, literally.

The church has been embracing and utilizing the popular word game Wordle to share reflections and daily devotions. 

For each of the 40 days of Lent, Asbury is sending out a custom Wordle based on the scripture reading from the previous Sunday. The Wordle is released at 9:00 am through the church's text messaging services. At 3:00 pm in the afternoon, the word is revealed on social media accompanied by a brief, one-paragraph devotion based on the word, usually written by congregation members. 

The idea is simple: use a word game to focus on words. In this case, 'holy' words that have the intention of drawing the audience closer to their daily walk with Christ. 

Rev. Matt Rawle

"Yes, this is a game about words, but the point is the time invested," says Rev. Matt Rawle, senior pastor at Asbury United Methodist Church. "Our Lenten worship series is called 'Time after Time,' which is a deep dive into meditating on how we use our time. The super-secret goal of our custom Wordle game will be to get people to spend time thinking about Sunday's message and connecting with friends. How often do people spend five minutes a day thinking about scripture?"

Wordle is a web-based word game by the New York Times. Players have six attempts to guess a five-letter word, with feedback given for each guess in the form of colored tiles indicating when letters match or occupy the correct position. While the game is owned by the New York Times, there has been a flurry of web-based spin-offs, such as the site Asbury is using to create a custom puzzle. 

Rawle is a fan of Wordle and admits it's just another word puzzle but says there's something unique about it. He says the user interface is simple, users are being asked to solve just a single word, and there's no app to download.  

"This is a step in the direction of 'Theological Gamification,'" he says, "An opportunity to share our values through interactive play."

Rawle says he hopes everyone will have fun and connect deeply to the intentionality of the Lenten season. For Rawle, the Lenten season is about more than just giving something up for 40 days or adding something to your daily routine. 

For him, the Lenten journey to the cross is about transformation. 

"It's pointless to put something down if you plan to pick it back up come Easter," he says. "Taking something on can be deadly in our over-worked consumer culture. So, what leads to transformation? If you are going to put something down, plan to put it down for good. Likewise, if you pick something up, may it be a new holy habit."

Are you interested in playing the Asbury Wordle?
Text @asburybos to 81010


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