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Looking Ahead: Ash Wednesday

It’s time! Ash Wednesday is only ONE WEEK from today. The words, the music, the ritual, the space–what are you thinking? What do you need? What phrases or images are you working with? Now’s the time to use the comments to write a new litany of confession, or to come up with new words for the imposition of ashes, or to think about how we will call people to the observation of Lent. What are you thinking?



I know, Lent feels far away.


But it isn’t.


Six weeks from today is Ash Wednesday.

As we take a moment to recover from that reality, let’s also take a moment to breathe in, breathe out, and contemplate.

What tone do you want to set for Lent this year?

Do you have Ash Wednesday services? Do you share them with another congregation? Is it something you don’t really do in your tradition or context?

Ashes, or symbolic (aka no-) ashes?

How will you engage this service of repentance, calling, and recognition of mortality?

Let’s work together to write something new–perhaps something we can use as a confession before we hear those great traditional words calling us to a holy lent? Add your ideas, phrases, things we need to confess, or hopes for Lent in the comments.

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  1. I am in charge of Ash Wednesday…the main memorable things about the service are: 1. the children’s choir sings; 2. the special music is usually “Dust In The Wind”; 3. We have ashes.

    This year’s Lent theme is about seeking God, so I think I want to set that in motion with Ash Wednesday (which is a pretty well attended service, usually…relatively speaking, for evening stuff). Perhaps the focus of at least one section will be on putting aside the things that block our seeking or cloud our vision? I’m not sure yet…I’d love to hear ideas from you all!

  2. scottpcusa says

    We are enhancing what we did last year. We had a combination Shrove Tuesday Pancake Dinner / Ash Wednesday Service at a local restaurant owned by church members. We ate pancakes around the tables, and then we simply had a service in the restaurant. I may have to try to incorporate “Dust in the Wind” into this because there is a musician in the church who could pull his guitar out and sing it. And that is where we were lacking last year…music. Instead of having everyone walk to one spot for ashes, I had elders around the restaurant. It worked really well. Even some neighborhood folk who are not regular church attenders came for dinner and stayed for the service.

  3. I like the idea of ‘Dust in the Wind!’ We offer a simple service, incorporating Taize music usually, following a liturgy I wrote some years ago.

  4. We are doing this thing through Lent where we’re talking about non-violent atonement which is making me think much more carefully about children during Lent. Children never come to this service (which probably has something to do with the timing) but I’m wondering if anyone has experience with children in Ash Wednesday or Lent observances, you know before Easter.

  5. Elsa, we have about 15 or so children in the Ash Wednesday service, because the children’s choir sings an anthem or an introit (or both). It’s always such an interesting experience to mark them with ashes.
    Last year we Boxed Up the Alleluias at the Ash Wednesday service. The kids helped by “gathering” them with me–we took down all the paraments, we sang All Creatures, and the kids “caught” people’s alleluias and carefully packed them away. Then each week of Lent during the children’s time we talked about why we don’t say or sing Alleluias. It was great.
    I’m not sure how I’m going to incorporate the children this year, but I’m hoping to think of something. I look forward to hearing what you’re thinking!

  6. I have done an Ash Wednesday service for kids for a couple of years now…it follows the general form of the regular (Episcopal BCP) liturgy but simplified. I talk about ashes–where they have come from (most know we burned the palms the night before), what they stand for. Short homily/story about forgiveness, saying sorry etc. It works really well. The kids who attend are usually between 5-10 and most can read so I print all the prayers in a bulletin for them.

  7. Teri-I’ve never heard of “catching” the Alleluias-how does that work? I’m thinking of doing the “boxing” of Alleluias this year but I’ve got to see if my music director has already planned music with Alleluias in it. That would kind of miss the point I guess….

  8. Lindsey, basically…when we prepared to box up the Alleluias, we had people turn toward the aisle and shout them, to sort of get it out of their system. The kids went up and down the aisle and “caught” them the way you would “catch” a kiss someone blew at you. they used two hands to keep a good hold on them, then brought them to the box which was in the center of the aisle.
    If I were much much cooler, I would have actual cut-out alleluias to be put in the box and returned to people on Easter morning.

  9. The theme we are using for Lent is renewal…turning away from the darkness we inhabit…and towards the light that is God’s intended reality for our lives. There is an artist in the church I serve who has done some very dark art…as well as some very celebratory art. I am planning to ask her if we can use two pieces of her art (one gloomy/dark…one celebratory/light) to hang on opposite sides of our worship space (we are doing our service in a cafe…see my previous post) and use them as visuals as we talk about the turning from darkness to light.

  10. This year, we are gathering for Ash Wednesday worship/imposition of ashes around a camp fire at a local park (keep in mind that we are in St. Paul, MN). All ages–lots of kids. We will likely sing Psalm 51 with a Psalm tone.

    One great way to bury those Alleluia’s is to print them out (black and white) and put them in the bulletin this coming Sunday. Invite the kids to go out and collect them and place them in a wooden box. Nail the box shut. It will be loud. It will echo. Then on Easter AM (or during the Vigil), remove the lid and let the kids run them around the sanctuary. (But secretly, go in and reprint the Alleluia’s in color and put them in the box. Shazam!)

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