This year, we added a second Ash Wednesday service. Yes, we are growing just so fast that we couldn't be contained in just one. In the afternoon, a couple of us gathered at the bus stop shelter at Randolph Ave and W 7th and offered ashes for foreheads and candles to light. Many walked by--curious looks and sideways glances. We had a few conversations with (guilt-ridden) lapsed Catholics. Two Occupy kids paused and asked, "Will you give me ashes even if I'm holding this sign?" Um, of course. (Read between the lines: will the church take me as I am? Or, will God take me as I am?) Um, let's hope so. Many of the foreheads we touched with ashes were people coming in and out of the clinic across the street. Shuffling off bus 54, bodies obviously in pain and in need of care, waiting to shuffle across the street to the clinic.
This wasn't Humble Walk serving the poor. This wasn't Humble Walk doing ministry in the street. It was Humble Walk. Those people who paused, those who asked for ashes, those who wanted to talk about the history of the day, those who we made uncomfortable, those who said "Thank you" and "Amen." That's our congregation. It doesn't even really feel radical. It feels obvious.
Our second service was in the park. Around a fire. Many of these bodies were younger, delighted to be in crunchy snow (finally)...in the dark...on a school night...around a fire. Here is a lovely reflection of the service from one of our people: http://eileencampbellreed.org/blog/2012/02/22/ash-wednesday-3/ One thing I learned from this service is that ashes mixed with oil become nearly solidified in the cold. So, when you all move your services outside next year, keep the container close to your body until it's time to use them.
Bodies. Shuffling, spritely, reluctantly, uncomfortably, willingly headed toward the dusty grave and the cross. And finally, the empty tomb.
This body is tremendously grateful to have entered this season.