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Liturgy Link Does Ash Wednesday

Many of you know that LiturgyLink began as an idea tossed around at Unconference and then developed on Twitter…and then funded by the S3 Project at Columbia Seminary (thanks to the Lilly Endowment). Well, the original four liturgylinkers were all together at Columbia last week and we decided we would try to write an Ash Wednesday prayer together.

The first thing you need to know about us is that we all serve in very very different churches, ranging from an urban congregation with 25 people in worship to Southern small-city churches, to a suburban midwestern church with over 200 people in worship. To say we have different contexts and different expectations for this kind of special service would be an understatement. After an hour of discussion (some of it heated) we realized that at least one of us was looking to write a long prayer that could be the backbone of the entire service, another was looking for something about the length of an average Sunday’s prayer of confession. One of us was hoping to focus on the otherness of God, while one wanted to focus on the closeness of God. Etc.

You can see where this is going, right?

We know that everyone who stops by here has a unique worship context–and that means you have something unique to contribute! We hope you use what is useful here, and we hope you’ll offer your creativity, even if that comes in the form of one word, or one phrase that you haven’t developed yet but might spark the imagination of someone else. In that spirit, we offer you what we did manage to put together–a list of phrases and ideas that we didn’t end up putting into one prayer that would work for all of us. But we suspect these phrases will appear in each of our prayers as we finish them up this afternoon or tomorrow morning.

Take these seeds (posted after the break!), add your own in the comments, and let’s see what this might grow into!

We don’t want to be renewed
We like things the way they are
We don’t let our imaginations run free
We don’t seek who God wants us to be
We’re stuck on one way of being – going in one direction

The problem is not who we are (we are beloved children of God!) but how we are.

Help us to turn.
Reshape us.
Reform us.

Perhaps a prayer in multiple sections with various refrains:

Your steadfast love endures forever.

We choose whom you can love
We limit your love
We act as if we are undeserving of your love
We don’t share your love
We forget that we are created in your image
We forget that you are love
We choose judgment rather than love
We limit the reach of your love
We ignore your call to love

Have mercy on me, O God
I am comfortable the way things are.
God wants me to be more than I am.
I prefer the illusion of control
I turn my eyes away from people in need
I turn my heart away from people with whom I disagree
I turn my mind away from realities of the world

communal refrain (help us? Guide us? Open us?)
We are comfortable the way things are.
You love us unconditionally…forgive our conditions.
We turn away from your world in need
We turn our eyes from a dying creation
We turn inward to save our institutions instead of heeding your call to go out

Turn us god
Turn us from our selfish ways
Turn us to your way
Turn our eyes to you
Turn our hearts

Can we physically turn around in our space to symbolize repentance? 

Perhaps use membership/baptism language (do you turn from evil and toward God)?


So–what ideas do you have? If you haven’t finished your Ash Wednesday bulletin yet, you’re not alone. Share your thoughts, your ideas, or what these phrases sparked for you, and let’s write together–each for our own communities, of course!

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  1. I like the idea of physically turning… but with an older crowd (what, the 20-somethings don’t come to Ash Wednesday?!) and with pews, I’m not sure how to do that and keep the tone of repentence intact. We invite folks to come forward, receive the ashes and then receive Communion. Would it make liturgical sense to send them to the back of the Sanctuary and then around to the front?

    I still think too much will get lose in the transit.
    What could we turn around up front that would make a similar impact?

  2. Teri Peterson says

    I think I’m going to do it–I’m just going to ask people to stand up in their pews (we don’t have any usual attenders who are not mobile), the same way we would for a hymn, and to turn themselves any direction other than facing the front, symbolizing the many different ways we go but which do not keep our eyes on the cross. Then I’ll ask the membership question, “do you turn from sin and renounce evil and its power in the world” and when they make the response “I do” they’ll turn part way forward. Then for the second question, turn the rest of the way forward, and answer the third question facing the cross.

    Or something.

    I think it would be interesting to have the ashes station at the back of the sanctuary, and the communion at the front. We have done something like that before, I think.

  3. That’s helpful Teri, thanks!

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