Today, Ash Wednesday, March 6, marks the beginning of the 40-day observance of Lent a period of introspection and recommitment for Christians around the world.
Preceded by Mardi Gras (literally translated “Fat Tuesday”), Shrove Tuesday or Fasnacht Day, the Tuesday prior to Ash Wednesday was developed as a way to celebrate ahead of the solemn observances and to use up more decadent ingredients cast aside during Lent.
“Historically, Lent has been viewed as a time of reflection,” said Rev. Angelo Valle of Christ Reformed Church, Alexandria. “Sometimes, people use it as a sort of spiritual detox.”
While not universally practiced throughout all of the Christian faith traditions, the practice of setting aside the weeks preceding Easter is observed by Catholics and Protestants alike with many beginning their Lenten journey with the imposition of ashes.
“The ashes are a reminder of your mortality,” said Todd Christine, pastor of the Trough Creek Valley United Methodist parish. “As it says in the scriptures, we come from dust and will return to dust. We are mortal on this earth. The good side of that is the hope we have that we are going on to eternity. It reminds us of where we come from, and at some point, we will die. But, if we know Christ, we will be raised as he was raised.”
“Ash Wednesday is a day that signals the beginning of this time of preparation in the church. There is a profound call to look inward,” said the Rev. Father Mark Reid of Most Holy Trinity Catholic Church, Huntingdon. “Much of the church year is a call to look outward in prayer, liturgy and song, and Lent still has that aspect, but it is a profound call to look inward, put on a cloak of humility, delve deeper and grow spiritually as we journey to the cross.”
The ashes administered to the foreheads of the faithful on Ash Wednesday are the remains of the palms from the previous year’s Palm Sunday service, a stark reminder of the celebration which met Jesus’s entry into Jerusalem one week before his betrayal and crucifixion.
“The season of Lent is a time to do a number of things,” said Rev. Ed Seeley, pastor of Orbisonia United Methodist Church. “It’s a time of preparation for the resurrection of Jesus Christ. It’s also a time of introspection and walking with Christ toward the cross. As you do that, you begin to look at your own Christian walk. It’s a time for more intensive reading of God’s Word. It’s a time to grow closer to God.”
Ashes are also symbolic of repentance throughout the Bible.
“People often utilize Lent as a period to remember they are but ashes and dust, which is a call back to the curse in the Garden of Eden,” said Valle. “It is a reminder that we are mortal and our lives should reflect that and we should utilize our lives well in serving the Lord.”
While there is no clear scriptural representation of Ash Wednesday or Lent, the practice traces back to the earliest days of Christianity when the Lenten period was also a time of preparation for those seeking to be baptized into the faith, which would take place Easter Sunday.
“During the Middle Ages, Ash Wednesday and Lent became something of an obligation,” Valle said. “Reformed churches have often seen it as a form of liberty. Lent isn’t commanded in the Bible, but it also isn’t forbidden.”
Ash Wednesday continues to be a day that draws many faithful to church.
“Ash Wednesday is not a holy day of obligation, but it is one of our most highly-attended non-obligatory days,” Reid said. “This is more of a devotional day to signal the season.”
For this reason, many Christian faith traditions do reflect some sort of Lenten observance, whether it be fasting, special services, Bible studies or a call to introspection.
“Lent, in particular, is focused on Jesus’ perfect, active obedience and how he garnered our salvation through his righteousness,” Valle said. “People often use these days to prepare for Easter.”
“It’s a time of self-reflection. There are many practices within the Church, like a time of reflective study, taking on a discipline like fasting or adding different items to one’s routine like more prayer or attending special services,” Christine said. “It’s a call to personal growth and personal reflection to ready the heart of the believer for the resurrection.”
Christine emphasized that Lent is not intended to be a time to strive for perfection through adherence to self-imposed rules.
“It’s a time when we look at our own lives and ask ourselves where we are falling short,” he said. “It’s not that we can live in perfection through legalistic doctrine, it’s a search into the soul.”
Local Ash Wednesday services will be held at churches throughout the county today, including:
— St. John’s Episcopal Church, Huntingdon, at noon and 7 p.m.
— Cassville Lutheran Church, 309 Seminary St., Cassville, at 6:30 p.m.
— 12th Street United Methodist Church, Huntingdon, at 7 p.m.
— Alexandria Presbyterian Church at 7 p.m.
— Shirleysburg United Methodist Church at 7 p.m.
— St. Matthew Lutheran Church, Entriken, at 7 p.m. The offering will benefit the Southside Elementary School backpack program.
— St. Luke Lutheran Church, Mount Union, at 7:30 p.m.
The Orbisonia Senior Center held its official opening day Tuesday.
As a pet project of Orbisonia Borough Council, council president Steve Scott was present to facilitate the event and to make sure the seniors had a good experience. The initial day welcomed roughly 15 people, with the hopes to attract more in the coming weeks.
“Orbisonia had a senior center years ago, they met in our old high school gymnasium. It was very active from what I understand. Through funding cuts, it was closed and our seniors either went to Mount Union or Three Springs. It’s always been in the back of our mind to open this. Different times we approached it as a council, but we needed a building. The fire company is okay, and thankfully they left us use it,” said Scott. “Every couple of years it’s come up and it really hit home to me two years ago with my next door neighbor when his wife and daughter passed away and his two boys don’t live in the area. He spent the holidays alone, and I really began to think about how many elderly people are alone, and you don’t always think about that sort of stuff every day. I thought to myself, if we had a senior citizens center these people could get out of the house and go be around their own people besides going to church on Sundays.”
Community member Pat Berrier was excited to be part of the opening day festivities, as well as being part of the discussion of what the seniors plan to do with the new facility.
“The ladies have been talking about doing this for quite a while and then when Steve (Scott) said that the borough wanted to help get it going, I kept reading about it in the paper, and I’d recently retired and I thought I had enough to do, but coming to their first meeting here this morning some of the programs they’re interested in are making me excited,” said Berrier. “One of them was making your own wreath, and there’s a lot of history in this town and we’re going to set up some tours of a couple of the houses, and have some folks come in and talk about good nutrition and how to eat healthier when there’s only one or two people in the house.”
Berrier commented that her vision of the senior center is to be more of a social gathering, as opposed to what many would associate with it.
“When I worked at (Community State Bank), I would go and talk at senior centers and it was very interesting that each one had a different climate. I went into one and they were whiners and complainers, and then I went into the next one they talked about how they were going to do this and that and it just felt good to be there,” said Berrier.
The tone of the environment was excitement from the people who came throughout the day. Many members came together and enjoyed refreshments and spoke about their plans for the center.
“It’s just kind of nice to come in and catch up with people and have some time here in a nice warm space. I think it’s important for seniors to socialize. There’s a lot of people who really just get to see somebody at the grocery store or church. If they feel comfortable coming into a location, it’s a good thing for anyone,” said Berrier. “I’m excited to help get them thinking about things that don’t have to do with health or being depressed. These ladies seem to be the ones that want to lead people into doing that.”
Berrier was most excited for the chance for community members to learn more about their town’s history.
“The historical society has a walking tour that they do with the children called Heritage Day, and I was sitting there thinking, wouldn’t it be nice on a beautiful day if we walked down to the original fire house or walked over to the Bedford Furnace House and we could take a tour of the churches. someone could come in and speak about the history of each one and they all seemed interested in that. It would just be nice to learn more about the town where we live,” said Barrier. “I’m involved with the library and there’s things we can do there to get them interested. We were talking about the different book series that we’re reading.”
Scott remarked on the businesses and community members that helped to make the day possible.
“Mark and Beth Price of Price Beverage donated the coffee pot, cups, sugar and creamer. The Nazarene Church in Rockhill donated the donuts for this week and offered in the future. Donna Barney of Orbisonia donated a television. F&M Trust has offered anything they can do to help us. Ed and Suzanne Harry have offered their support in any way they can moving forward, and there’s been a tremendous outpouring from the community. Different people have called saying if you need something, let me know,” said Scott. “I’m thankful for the fire company for letting us get started here.”
The Orbisonia Senior Center will be open from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Tuesdays and Thursdays. For more information on the senior center call the Orbisonia Borough office at 447-3255.
The Huntingdon County Historical Society welcomed historian Stephen Runkle for the March edition of their Winter Lecture Series, titled Lumbering and Timber Rafting in the Susquehanna River Basin.
Runkle is a veteran of the lecture series and has given many presentations on several different topics over the years, but he attributes his interest in the history of logging from his experience with his former profession.
“I was a water resources engineer all of my career with the state Department of Environmental Protection and I got interested in Native Americans because many of the water resources in Pennsylvania have Native American names like Juniata and Susquehanna,” said Runkle. “I got interested in the logging because they used the river to transport the logs, both rafting and free-floating logs. I met Tom Tabor and he allowed me to use his pictures, and without the pictures it’s really not a great presentation. His books that he put together are a wonderful resource.”
Tuesday’s presentation was one of many within Runkle’s repertoire of historical accounts.
“I have 20 different presentations. I have one on the Broad Top coal mining that I’ve done here, but this one took me about a month and a half to really put together. Once I got permission to use (Tabor’s) pictures, I just picked out the best pictures and put a story script behind it,” said Runkle. “I’ve done Revolutionary War, Native American life and French and Indian War here in the Susquehanna, mostly the things that I’m interested in. I have a couple on the Gettysburg battle, too.”
Runkle told his audience about the impacts of the lumbering industry on Pennsylvania, and how within 100 years over 70 percent of the state’s forests had been clear cut for sale and processing.
“Huntingdon County is in the center of the timber area, so it’s a very important timbering county even today. Sixty percent of Pennsylvania is still forested, if you go all of the way back 250 years ago to Native American times, Pennsylvania was a vast forest, almost 100 percent. You could walk for days in Pennsylvania forests and the canopy of trees would block out the sun. Unfortunately in the 19th century Pennsylvanians abused their forest resources. pretty badly,” said Runkle. “By about 1900, they had logged it off that only 30 percent of Pennsylvania was forested, and it’s come back to 60 percent mainly due to the efforts of Gifford Pinchot, Maurice K. Goddard and Joseph Rothrock.”
Runkle explained the different ways that logs were taken to market on the Susquehanna River basin during the height of the logging era.
“When the early settlers came down into the frontier, they were really interested in farming. They tried to clear the forest. They, of course, built the buildings they needed to build, the log cabins and the barns, but then they had a surplus of logs and mainly they just burnt them. However, some of the more astute farmers realized if they could get the logs down market, down stream, generally to places like Harrisburg, down the Susquehanna River, and that timber was worth some money, but the problem was how would they get it down there,” said Runkle.
There were several interesting facts about the loggers who worked in the camps all around the state. Runkle asked the audience about the nickname given to the loggers.
“This might surprise you, they called them ‘wood hicks.’ They didn’t call Paul Bunyan or loggers, they called them wood hicks. They were the grungiest and the smelliest guys you would ever run into, because they never took a bath. The logging camps had no bath facilities and they rarely changed their clothes,” he said.
The detailed lecture followed the logging trail from the headwaters of the Susquehanna River, and explained the many different facets and improvements of the logging industry over the course of the century it was most practiced. The industry saw the change of floating logs singularly down the river, to lashing them together in rafts, and finally being taken by canal boat and eventually by railroad. The increase of sawmills spurred new technology, from the traditional water-powered mills to the steam-powered mills with large circular saws and bandsaws that ran all day and all night, which increased the production.
Runkle concluded his presentation by showing areas like the Pennsylvania Grand Canyon that was once clear cut due the logging industry. Where a railroad once stood is now a rails to trails site with lush forest around it.
“We’re back to 60 percent forested from 30 percent. Let’s not let it get back that far again. Let’s use modern conservation practices to conserve our forests and I think we’re doing a pretty good job today,” said Runkle.
The Huntingdon County Commissioners announced at their weekly meeting Tuesday morning the longtime tax assessor for the county is set to retire later this year.
The commissioners officially approved, with regret, the retirement of Ken Tucker, who has served as the county’s chief assessor for 19 years, effective Friday, May 3.
“I just want to thank Ken for almost 20 years of service,” said commissioner Jeff Thomas. “There is a wealth of knowledge that will be missed once he retires. He will be missed greatly in the county.”
Additionally, commissioners also approved Jacob Gordon, instruction and outreach librarian at Juniata College, to serve on the board of the Huntingdon County Library.
During the public comment portion of the meeting, Huntingdon Borough resident Jim Cassatt asked the commissioners about the possibility of instituting a policy around checks that are signed by the county, but are never cashed, causing the county to pay to stop payment.
“You budgeted $15,000 for that in the most recent budget,” he said. “Why can’t you put a disclaimer or something on checks to state if they’re not cashed by a certain time, they are considered void? You wouldn’t lose money if they aren’t cashed within a certain time.”
Cassatt also asked the commissioners about $1.3 million in funds they were to receive for Children and Youth Services during the budget impasse of the 2014-15 fiscal year that was to be paid during the 2016 budget year or later.
“Did we get this money?” Cassatt asked. “If we did, when did we get it, and how did we spend it? I’ve asked this before, and I never get an answer.”
Cassatt said if that money would have been used wisely when it was received, perhaps the county wouldn’t have needed to take out a Tax Application Notice (TAN) for $1.71 million.
Thomas told Cassatt they would have to do research on when the county received the money and what exactly was done with the money that was received.
Two individuals were arrested and evidence seized following the execution of a search warrant early Tuesday morning in Mount Union Borough.
Kevin Miller, 36, of Pittsburgh, and Dora Branche, 31, of Mount Union, were arraigned before magisterial district judge Lisa Covert Tuesday.
“Kevin Miller was arrested on an arrest warrant for possession with intent to deliver,” said Huntingdon County District Attorney Dave Smith. “As a result of the arrest, we obtained a sealed search warrant.”
Miller has been charged with felony manufacture, delivery or possession with intent to manufacture or deliver and misdemeanor intentional possession of a controlled substance by a person not registered. Branche is charged with felony manufacture, delivery or possession with intent to manufacture or deliver, intentional possession of a controlled substance by a person not registered and use/possession of drug paraphernalia.
“Bail for Mr. Miller was established at $250,000 straight,” Smith said.
Both Miller and Branche are confined to the Huntingdon County Jail.
“As a result of the search, approximately $4,000 in cash was seized, along with marijuana, crack cocaine and heroin,” Smith said. “Additionally, we took cellphones and other evidence indicating that drugs were being sold out of this residence.”
Smith added that all parties are innocent until proven guilty in a court of law.
“The investigation is ongoing and will continue,” he said.
Members of the state Attorney General’s Office, the Huntingdon County Drug Task Force, Mount Union Borough Police Department and the Huntingdon Borough Police Department assisted in the search of the Hartman Village, Mount Union, residence just after 7 a.m. Tuesday.
“This is another mid-level dealer who was trying to set up shop in Huntingdon County,” said Smith. “ I credit the drug task force and the Attorney General’s office in working this case quickly and efficiently and in making a significant arrest. I’m very pleased with the outcome.”
The evidence collected will be sent to a lab for further testing.
“One of the dangers we have when dealing with heroin is that it can be laced with fentanyl, so we send it out to the lab to be tested,” he said. “We are finding fentanyl mixed with cocaine, marijuana and other things too, so there is an added risk to officers any time they are involved with it. Sometimes what we think could be heroin or cocaine turns out to be fentanyl, so we wait for the lab results to come back to be 100 percent sure of what we have.”
Statewide, the trends seem to indicate that the number of cases involving heroin have shown a slight decline while there is an uptick in the amount of crack cocaine, cocaine and meth being abused.
“It seems like heroin is dying down a bit, and meth, crack and cocaine are making a comeback,” Smith said. “The unfortunate part is that they are laced with fentanyl a lot of times which adds an element of danger to anyone who comes into contact with it.”
Preliminary hearings for both Miller and Branche have been scheduled for 8:30 a.m. Wednesday, March 13.
PennDOT recently announced that REAL IDs are now available for state residents who desire to be compliant with the federal standard.
The REAL ID will be a required compliance for persons boarding domestic airline flights and to enter secure federal facilities. The effective date for the compliance is Oct. 1, 2020.
The federal REAL ID standard requires PennDOT to verify a customer’s identity, Social Security number, Pennsylvania residency, applicable named changes, and if the resident already has a state photo ID or driver’s license.
According to PennDOT community relations coordinator Alexis Campbell, the main reasons for the mandate is for residents to be able to gain access to airplanes and government buildings after the effective date.
“The main reason is if people want to continue to use their state driver’s license to board domestic flights or enter secure federal buildings or military building, then their going to need either a REAL ID, passport or another federally accepted form of ID after Oct. 1, 2020. If people don’t fly, if they have a passport or they have some other ID that may work, they might not need to get a REAL ID right now, but if you want to continue to use your driver’s license to do those things you should get one,” said Campbell.
Residents will have three options for obtaining a REAL ID which include online ordering if they have been pre-verified, by visiting a PennDOT Driver’s License Center to have their documents verified and imaged which will be mailed within 15 business days, or to visit one of the 12 PennDOT REAL ID centers to receive same-day over-the-counter service.
According to Campbell, all driver’s licenses that were initially issued after 2003 should have been pre-verified, and would allow customers to order online via the PennDOT website.
The cost of REAL ID for first-time users is a one-time fee of $30 and a driver’s license renewal of $30.50, which will add an additional four years to existing license terms. According to Campbell, all licenses renewed after obtaining REAL ID status will continue to hold the designation. However the switch to REAL ID is not required for all residents.
“The legislation that was passed that authorized us to offer REAL IDs was specific in saying that it’s up to each person if they want to get a REAL ID or not. In Pennsylvania it’s optional, it’s a federal law, but each state implements it in their own way. In other states, they may require you to get a REAL ID, but here it’s optional,” said Campbell.
According to Campbell the REAL IDs are clearly marked with a gold star in the upper right hand corner of the ID and all IDs not carrying the designation will read “Not for REAL ID Purposes.”
For more information or to find a REAL ID Center, visit www.penndot.gov/REALID.