Ash Wednesday has always been one of my favorite religious times. I love the service on Ash Wednesday and the imposition of the ashes. For some reason this is the service that I get so much strength from. I know that may be a little “odd” because the symbolism behind Ash Wednesday is that it represents the 40 days of fasting that Jesus practiced in the wilderness. Ash Wednesday is the “kick off” to Lent where Christians are reminded to repent and believe in the gospel and receive the mark of the cross on their foreheads from the ashes of last year’s Easter palm branches. I am not a huge fan of fasting although I have done it and realize the importance of it in my spiritual life so my focus during Lent is not on the fasting and the self denial but more on the refocusing and giving of myself.
What I have done for at least 7 years is be intentional about writing letters to loved ones during Lent. Each day I try to write a letter of encouragement or appreciation to someone who is in my life. It does not have to be anything fancy or long or detailed but I have found that it is a very good practice for me to do and as I scan my address files I am reminded of those that I need to thank for being in my life.
This year Ash Wednesday looks much different in a lot of places due to coronavirus. Our church, Brevard First United Methodist, (325 North Broad Street, Brevard, North Carolina) has not gone back to in church services and won’t until our county reaches a much lower positivity rate. I am so grateful for their caution. We can watch online and that has been a good substitute during the past year. But they have not forgotten how important Ash Wednesday is and have created a really great alternative to the traditional service.
Today the doors of the chapel will be open from 10 am until 6 pm for anyone who wants to experience a Prayer Labyrinth to stop by and use the time to meditate and reflect on the time ahead. Simply walk to the rear entrance and follow the labyrinth layout as it leads to the front of the chapel. At the front there will be individual packets of ashes that are in compliance with the latest health protocols. After receiving the ashes the walk will continue with an exit out the side door.The labyrinth will remain open each weekday during Lent from 10 am until 4 pm. I absolutely love this idea.
Unfortunately we will not be able to do this creative meditation and prayer walk as we are currently isolating at home. No, we definitely do not have Covid-19 but are doing all we can to stay home until our trip to Raleigh later this week to finally meet our grandson in person. The day has finally arrived and we have been tested (negative) and isolated until we travel. The rest of the family has been tested, isolated or vaccinated and we can hardly wait to hold baby Theo for the very first time. While I will miss this wonderful opportunity to worship I am beyond happy that we are finally going to meet our sweet little grandson in person.
Have you seen other creative ways to observe Ash Wednesday this year? Do you have plans to give something up or to add something to your life during Lent? I would love to read all about it in the comments so make sure you leave me plenty. Remember that each comment on the blog during the month means a 50 cent donation to our Comments for a Cause – Hannibal UMC.