Ash Wednesday in the streets

Posted 10 March 2011 by
Taking it to the streets

Taking it to the streets (from Episcopal Café)

We walked through an alley, where a teenaged drug dealer grinned at us and lifted his cap to show the cross already marked on his forehead. “I never thought I’d be walking along the street censing trash cans and storefronts,” Deb said. “and so many people would come toward it.” I know,” I said. “I think people might want a lot more church than we generally give them.” (Sara Miles, “Ash Wednesday in the streets“)

What happens when two people wearing black cassocks walk towards you? One person had a smoking thurible (incense burner). The other person had a baby food jar with black ashes in it.

Actually, I have an answer to that question.

St. Paul’s Church on lower Queen Anne Hill has been known to do a procession around the block on the sidewalk, typically on Pentecost. In this case it is a thurifer (carrying the smoking thurible), crucifer (carrying the processional cross), candle bearers, choir, clergy, and congregation. And, everyone is singing.

What happens? One time there was an auto accident when someone stopped their car to watch.

No one expects the Episcopal Church procession.

These unexpected things do not always involve Episcopalians. Well, there may be Episcopalians present, but they are always not identified as such.

Back in the early 1980s, I had a job that required me travelling through North Dakota, Minnesota, and South Dakota from my home in Sioux Falls. One year, I was going to spend the evening of Good Friday in the St. Cloud, Minnesota, area. I knew the Benedictine Abbey at St. John’s University in Collegeville typically had a 5:00 pm mass. I planned on being there for that service. What I did not know that the 5:00 pm service on this Ash Wednesday was going to be a full community mass: monks, college students, and local parish members.

At that service, we did not go forward to have ashes placed on our foreheads. Instead, the ashes were passed down each aisle. You marked the forehead of the person next to you, reminding that person he or she was going to be dust one day. I did not know how difficult that was going to be. It was much harder for this then-licensed chalice bearer to say “you are dust” than to say “the Blood of Christ, the Cup of Salvation.”

Going back to “Ash Wednesday in the streets,” I found it very moving. It is a story about telling people they are going to die. And those people responding “thank you.” I do not want to steal that story’s thunder by telling too much here. So, read it on the original website.

Remember that you are dust, and to dust you will return.

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