I really love what the Ash Wednesday Worship experience at my church has become over the last few years. It is an intimate service that starts in the Butler Chapel with a fairly traditional worship, and then we offer the invitation to physically take a “journey” through the main hallway of the church to experience some really great prayer stations. This has enabled us to really make it a family friendly (and youth friendly) worship experience. It brings such joy to me to see moms and dads guiding their children through the prayer stations, right next to youth or older adults, or young singles…. it’s truly a worship experience for all. There is a great feeling among the worship community that we are definitely taking this journey through Lent together.
Another special moment for me was quite unexpected. About 30 minutes before the worship was to begin, I got a call from my Senior Minister that he had suddenly become ill…. possibly ate something bad…who knows. So, our youth minister and I led the worship experience. What I didn’t anticipate was how profound of an experience I would have during the time in the worship where people would receive the Imposition of Ashes. You see, since I was a child, I just have never felt comfortable with this practice. I don’t know if it is just that I never really understood it, or what, but I just always wanted to avoid the ashes…..can’t explain it.
So here I was, now finding that I would be the one to place the ashes on the foreheads of the wonderful people in my congregation. I said a prayer to myself for peace and understanding and knowing the right words to say…..and incredibly, ended up having a very rich experience with deep meaning as I said over and over again, “From dust you have come and to dust you will return, but the love of God lasts forever.” “From dust you have come and to dust you will return, but the love of God lasts forever.” “From dust you have come and to dust you will return, but the love of God lasts forever.”
Much like the connection I feel when I serve communion from the patent and Chalice, I felt a deep connection to the participants in that worship experience.
I’m so grateful for a congregation that is loving and understanding. And….while I resist it often, I am grateful to God that I am finally (after so many years in various forms of ministry) starting to accept the call God has for me in ministry and am part of a congregation that encourages me as I gain new experiences as a minister. We closed the time of worship together by singing one of my most favorite worship songs….a song that I haven’t sung in months. As we all journey through Lent—which isn’t always fun or easy, may we find comfort knowing that we are not alone, comfort knowing that we can follow the lead of Jesus, and comfort knowing that the Love of God lasts forever.
More on “What’s Next, God” tomorrow…