Four years ago, the church I serve had an Ash Wednesday service for the first time that anyone could remember. We had about fifteen people show up for a short and simple service in which the Scriptures were read and ashes imposed. I'm pretty sure I remember we had a tornado warning that night, too. Thankfully, it didn't scare anyone off and we've seen an increase in Ash Wednesday attendance each year. I love Lent and its beginning on this Wednesday.
This morning I tried something new. After reading this article a month ago, I asked the owner of the convenience store where many in our community get their morning coffee and breakfast if I could come on Ash Wednesday and impose ashes on people who wanted to come by on their way to work. He's a member of our church and I wanted to make sure he felt free to tell me no and he said he couldn't think of a reason to say no, so we were off and running!
This morning I arrived at 6:30 and for the next hour and a half I ate, visited, and imposed ashes on about a dozen people. We got some strange looks and a few questions, which I expected. We also experienced together the power of being a part of the body of Christ in our community. We were able to be the church outside of our building. What an amazing feeling!
Most of them will be back in about 40 minutes as we have our regular Ash Wednesday service, but I can't help but imagine what the next few years will bring in terms of participation and witness as we openly practice our faith outside of our building.