A letter from Rev'd Geraint concerning Ash Wednesday:
On Ash Wednesday you are invited to join our deanery “quiet day” on zoom where each of the three curates: Rev’d Ceri (Bridgend), Rev’d Glenda (Pencoed), and Rev’d Geraint (Maesteg) will offer a reflection throughout the day. In addition to this we will meet for worship.
The series of reflections complement one another but individuals can dip in-and-out throughout the day. All are welcome to attend individual sessions or join with us for them all. Between each reflection there will be time to reflect, rest, and pray. At 7pm there will be a short break whilst a piece of music is played in order for those wishing to join with the closing act of worship – but not the 6:30pm reflection – to do so. I have included the running order below.
At 10am Rev’d Maggie Thorne (Bridgend) will celebrate the Eucharist on behalf of the deanery and we are all invited to partake in the sacrament spiritually – just as we do on a Sunday. As part of the service there will also be an opportunity for individuals to mark their forehead with ash as the words “Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return. Turn away from sin and be faithful to Christ.” are spoken.
This year - as we are not meeting in church - we have been encouraged to consider the best way of maintaining the tradition of Ash Wednesday whilst also re-evaluating the purpose of the day and the events which usually take place.
In short, the act of applying ash to the forehead is a sign of our common mortality, and our need for corporate penance. Well, there is nothing like a global pandemic to remind us of the frailty of our mortality, so we’ve got that one well and truly covered this year whether we physically receive ash on our heads or not. In addition to this, I would like to share with you the following sentence from “The Priest’s Handbook: The Ceremonies of the Church” by Dennis G. Michno (1998):
“The act of receiving ashes must not become the focal point of the day but rather a sign of the day, a sign that is part of the penitential beginning of the season of Lent.”
This – I believe – gives us the flexibility to receive the ash of Ash Wednesday spiritually this year if we are unable to receive the ash physically. However, guidance from the bench of bishops does allow the imposition of ash within households, especially if public worship is not taking place. Therefore, if you wish to apply ash to your forehead at the appropriate point in the service, there are a number of options available.
Firstly, and only if it is safe to do so, you may wish to burn your own palm cross (or a piece of paper) outdoors. Once cool you can grind the ashes into a powder in order to apply them to your head at the appropriate time. Remember that you only need a small amount in order to mark your forehead.
Secondly, you may wish to purchase a small sachet of palm ash from a church supplies company. Time is running short for this but there is an option to purchase small amounts of palm ash via amazon. (Please check the delivery date to ensure it will arrive by Ash Wednesday).
Finally, you may wish to abstain from physically marking your head with ash this year. Instead, as Michno has reminded us in the citation above, you may wish to focus your attention on the words which are being spoken at this point as – together –we resolve to turn away from sin and be faithful to Christ.
Having reflected on this for a long time – and having already procured palm ash in preparation for Ash Wednesday – I have decided that I will not be applying ash to my head this year. Instead, I will be marking the sign on the cross on my forehead with a clean thumb and reflecting on my ongoing need to turn away from sin and be faithful to Christ at the appropriate point in the service.
I will be sending further details of our lent course within the next few days but as Ash Wednesday draws nearer, I would like to wish you all a spiritually fulfilling Lent as we begin our 2021 lenten journey together.
With love and best wishes,
The Reverend Geraint John
Curate: Parish of Llangynwyd with Maesteg
Tel. 01656 734012
Mob. 07968 839509
10am – Holy Eucharist with (optional) imposition of ashes.
12:30pm – Reflection 1: Redemption
3:30pm – Reflection 2: Restoration
6:30pm – Reflection 3: Rest
7pm - Closing Worship
Note: Zoom details will be sent out on Shrove Tuesday.