Thursday, 19 February 2015

Ashing and another Lent begins

Last evening we had our Ashing service at St. Mary's, and a lovely one it was too.

Since it is half-term the choir was down to less than half its full complement, but the sound we made gave no indication of that.

We sang "View me Lord" with one or two slight changes to our previous renditions, long pauses between some of the phrases etc.  Accurately and sensitively sung by our half choir.

Lead and conducted by our young organist (the musical director/choir coach was otherwise engaged) the sound was, in my opinion, probably the best we have ever produced.

The homily was well rounded (if a little long) and the 'ashing' itself very well executed.

This is the fifth time I have experienced this somewhat eccentric seeming ritual, and the first time I have ever had what was a real cross, rather than a dubious daub placed on my unsuspecting forehead.

One year, our previous much-loved incumbent, either intentionally or accidentally made what looked very much like a question mark on my face.  (control yourselves please), and  I couldn't wait to wash it off.

Lent for me is a time for quiet reflection, a reviewing of the past year and a resolve to make the next one better.

Yes, like half the population I do give up chocolate but that is only a very small part of this solemn time.  A chance to consider dropping other self-indulgent habits and to take small, positive steps on the journey to Easter.

For us this year at St Mary's has been full of big changes and the last 8 weeks or so very challenging with no less than 6 deaths in our wider church family, including the shocking one of a young priest in a neighbouring church.

Moods have swung from sadness, through acceptance to finally, hope, and the community as a whole has drawn closer to each other.

Our new incumbent is striving to support and uphold those most in need and at the same time to establish a forward-looking church.  Hard for him and quite hard for us too.

Altogether a different Lent.

Deo Gracias.


  1. A very thoughtful reflection on the meaning of Lent, Ray, and I'm glad your Ash Wednesday service and singing went so well. I walked to our village church yesterday morning for a similar service, though without music except for one unaccompanied hymn sung by the twelve of us there. A good start to Lent.

    1. I'm glad you made it to the service Perpetua, and on foot too.
      I got a lift home after our evening service, thank goodness.
      I don't much like being out in the town on my own after dark and it was around 9.00pm. As you say, a good start to Lent.

  2. Our Vicar was offering ashing in the street yesterday during the rush lunch hour. A different but worthwhile experience.

    1. Wow. In the street? My goodness, what a brave man. Very different for most people I imagine.

  3. Your service sounds wonderful....very much better than mine! Good start to the solemn season.!

  4. Yes indeed, a very good start and it only gets better from here on. I know not everyone loves the Easter season in the church, most seem to prefer Christmas. For me Lent and Easter are what it is all about and I really love the more serious music.

  5. in our tradition we don't tend to have special "Ashing" services, though I have been to a couple at a nearby cathedral whilst I was working. I found it profoundly moving and walked down the street afterwards feeling very conspicuous.

  6. I believe it is only High Anglican/Anglo Catholic and Roman Catholic who use the 'imposition of ashes' service. But it is a lovely tradition and for those of us who like the ritual rich services.
    I'd like to say it dictated my behaviour in the following weeks and days, but I'm afraid that is very much a work in progress.

    1. I think it's pretty generally used in Welsh Anglican parishes, Ray. Certainly I've always been familiar with it in our small rural parishes and we're very middle of the road. :-)

  7. Is it? I had no way of knowing that Perpetua, my family on both sides being Welsh Chapel. I'm glad to know it is more widespread than I had thought. Thanks:-)