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Tuesday, February 13, 2018

A Brief Ecumenical Service for Ash Wednesday

Note: As a Hospice Chaplain, I am asked to provide a brief - often very brief - service of Ash Wednesday with imposition of ashes but without communion to an ecumenical congregation. The reasons for this are almost always pragmatic: hospice patients (and their fellow residents of Extended Care Facilities) are not able to tolerate lengthy services; neither are staff able to take that much time away from their duties. As for this priest, I will not do "Ashes to Go" (Or, as one of my colleague calls it "Drive-By-Smudges"). "Call me old-fashioned call me what you will, say I'm a relic say I'm over the hill" . . . BUT, I just can't completely separate the ritual from the liturgy. SO, this is as bare-bones as I dare to get. I will use it several times in several settings tomorrow, including with my beloved staff. Depending on the time and location, I may add a very brief reflection after the reading. I wanted to make it as participatory as possible and will ask one of the staff to read the lesson. I also wanted to make it uplifting and inspirational, with an emphasis on our need of each other in community. Please feel free to use it

A Brief Ecumenical Service for Ash Wednesday

The Voice of One:       Holy and beautiful the custom which brings us together,
The Voice of Many:              in the presence of the most high:

                                    To face our ideals,
                                    to remember our loved ones in absence,
                                    To give thanks, to make confession, to offer forgiveness,
                                                to be enlightened, and to be strengthened.
                                    Through this quiet time breathes the worship of ages,
                                                the heritage of generations past.
                                    Three unseen guests attend.
                                                faith, hope, and love.
                                    Let all our hearts prepare them place.

A reading from Holy Scripture: Joel 2:1-2, 12-15

Blow the trumpet in Zion;
sound the alarm on my holy mountain!
Let all the inhabitants of the land tremble,
for the day of the Lord is coming, it is near--
a day of darkness and gloom,
a day of clouds and thick darkness!
Like blackness spread upon the mountains
a great and powerful army comes;
their like has never been from of old,
nor will be again after them
in ages to come.
Yet even now, says the Lord,
return to me with all your heart,
with fasting, with weeping, and with mourning;
rend your hearts and not your clothing.
Return to the Lord, your God,
for God is gracious and merciful,
slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love,
and relents from punishing.

Silent contemplation
Ash Wednesday invites us into the Season of Lent, a time to consider more deeply our mortal nature and to more closely examine our relationship with God and each other and the ways we fall short and miss the mark so that we might do better. Please take a moment of silence to consider the limits of our own mortality, the shortness and uncertainty of life, and the ways we might try to exceed even the limits of our own human understanding and imagination. 

The Imposition of Ashes
As a mark of our humanness and mortality, we bear the cross of ashes on our foreheads. If you wish to have ashes imposed on your forehead, please come forward.

“Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return.” AMEN.

THE LORD’S Prayer  …. “Our Father/Mother/Abba, who art in heaven . . . .”

Closing Litany
One:                We need one another when we mourn and would be comforted
Many                          We need one another when we are in trouble and afraid
We need one another when we are in despair, in temptation, and need to be recalled to our best selves again.
We need one another when we would accomplish some great purpose, and cannot do it alone.      
We need one another in the hour of success, when we look for someone to share our triumphs.    
We need one another in the hour of defeat, when with encouragement we might endure, and stand again.
We need one another when we come to die, and would have gentle hands prepare us for the journey.
            All our lives we are in need of others, and others are in need of us. AMEN.

The Benediction
My friends, life is short, and we do not have much time to gladden the hearts of those who make this earthly pilgrimage with us, so be swift to love and make haste to do kindness; and the blessing of God - who is Love, who is Beloved, who Loves unconditionally - be upon you and all whom you love and pray for this day and fore ever more. AMEN.

The Dismissal:
Go forth into the world in peace; be of good courage; hold fast that which is good; render to one one evil for evil; strengthen the fainthearted; support the weak; help the afflicted; honor all people. Love and serve the Lord rejoicing in the power of the Holy Spirit. AMEN.

Chaplain Elizabeth Kaeton

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