Skip to comments.More Protestants turn to Ash Wednesday
Posted on 02/06/2008 6:07:23 AM PST by NYer
Roman Catholics grow up hearing the words on Ash Wednesday as they receive a sign of the cross in ashes on their foreheads:
"For dust you are and to dust you will return."
But Christians at many Protestant churches around the city will be hearing those words from Genesis 3:19 today as they, too, are marked by ashes on the first day of Lent, the 40-day somber season leading to Easter.
Protestant churches in recent years have increasingly turned to the rite to increase spirituality and devotional preparation for Easter Sunday among their members.
"There is a trend ... toward more sacramental forms and it is not surprising to see the recovery of imposition of ashes on Ash Wednesday," said the Rev. Daniel K. Dunlap, vice president of Houston Graduate School of Theology and a liturgy expert. The rite was generally abandoned by Protestants after the Reformation, although Episcopalians continued to observe it, he noted.
Among Protestant churches observing Ash Wednesday today are:
First United Methodist Church, where 600 to 800 members will receive ashes made from burned palm fronds during services at both campuses.
Memorial Lutheran Church (Missouri Synod), where about 225 students at the church's school and more than 200 church members are expected to be given the sign of the cross in ashes.
Memorial Drive Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), where associate minister John Malget will distribute ashes to 70 members. He estimates that up to half of his denomination's churches in the Houston area now distribute ashes.
While most Baptists do not observe Ash Wednesday, the Rev. Jeremy Rutledge, pastor of Covenant Baptist Church, will administer ashes at a Rothko Chapel service tonight.
"I put my thumb into a bowl of ashes and I put the ashes on someone's forehead and tell him he is going to die,"said Rutledge, a member of the Amercian Baptist denomination. "It is incredibly powerful."
"By now it is a familiar ritual that is a meaningful service to me," she said. "It definitely reminds me of the fact that we are all mortal and it calls me to be a better person."
And along with ashes, Lenten sacrifice also has increased among non-Catholics, although it may be in the form of additional work at church or more prayer devotion rather than giving up something like candy, Dunlap said.
Before Associate Pastor Bart Day arrived at Memorial Lutheran 10 years ago, the church did not observe Ash Wednesday. He said the rite draws people into faith and helps keep their minds focused.
The Rev. Steve Wende introduced ashes at smaller churches he served in Kingsville and San Antonio, but found the rite already was in use at First United Methodist Houston when he arrived in 2001.
"It has been around for a while, but it wasn't as popular," said Wende, who fasts one day a week during Lent. "It has been much more widely practiced in the last 10 to 15 years."
The imposition of ashes officially became part of Methodist observance in 1992 edition of the denomination's Book of Worship. The practice is optional, however, and congregations are not required to use it.
"We ask the people to receive the ashes first as a sign of their humility to Christ and second as their witness to the world," Wende said. "Its power has been rediscovered. It is the power of humbling yourself before the cross."
Why did the Protestant churches stop performing the rite following departure from the RC Church?
They are now discovering that they threw the baby out with the bathwater.
This is not as bad as the Puritans in England smashing all the stained glass windows and statues, not by any means, but it's the same thing in a much lesser degree. As one of Kipling's characters said, "Man needs ritual."
Not Methodists. (No disrespect intended. My husband used to be one - his grandfather was a Methodist minister and a lovely man. Just good clear through. I hope he's speaking up for us in Heaven, even if we have turned Papist on him.)
This is truly a sign that the Holy Spirit is working to bring the Christian believers much more closer to unity as Jesus prayed on the night before he suffered. Never doubt the power of the Holy Spirit. Also a sign that the Protestants need those important guide posts of ritual observance.
It seems that the more radical Reformers has a dislike and distrust for anything bodily or emotional in religion. They thought of Faith as the response of a mind to a concept, not the response of a whole person to a Whole Person. And therefore the bodily and symbolic aspects of religious practice, including incense, ashes, oil, candles, frescoes, flowers, bells, vestments --- all that was done away with.
The Puritans abolished ashes on Ash Wednesday, feasting on Christmas. As in the following
"For preventing disorders, arising in several places within this jurisdiction by reason of some still observing such festivals as were superstitiously kept in other communities, to the great dishonor of God and offense of others: it is therefore ordered by this court and the authority thereof that whosoever shall be found observing any such day as Christmas or the like, either by forbearing of labor, feasting, or any other way, upon any such account as aforesaid, every such person so offending shall pay for every such offence five shilling as a fine to the county."
From the records of the General Court
Massachusetts Bay Colony
May 11, 1659
Contemporary commentary on the Puritan Iconoclasts:
The World Turned Upside Down
To the Tune of, When the King enioys his own again.
1. List to me and you shall hear, news hath not been this thousand year:
Since Herod, Caesar, and many more, you never heard the like before.
Holy-dayes are despis'd, new fashions are devis'd.
Old Christmas is kickt out of Town.
Yet let's be content, and the times lament, you see the world turn'd upside down.
2. The wise men did rejoyce to see our Savior Christ's Nativitie:
The Angels did good tidings bring, the Sheepheards did rejoyce and sing.
Let all honest men, take example by them.
Why should we from good Laws be bound?
Yet let's be content, &c.
3. Command is given, we must obey, and quite forget old Christmas day:
Kill a thousand men, or a Town regain, we will give thanks and praise amain.
The wine pot shall clinke, we will feast and drinke.
And then strange motions will abound.
Yet let's be content, &c.
4. Our Lords and Knights, and Gentry too, doe mean old fashions to forgoe:
They set a porter at the gate, that none must enter in thereat.
They count it a sin, when poor people come in.
Hospitality its selfe is drown'd.
Yet let's be content, &c.
5. The serving men doe sit and whine, and thinke it long ere dinner time:
The Butler's still out of the way, or else my Lady keeps the key,
The poor old cook, in the larder doth look,
Where is no goodnesse to be found,
Yet let's be content, &c.
6. To conclude, I'le tell you news that's right, Christmas was kil'd at Naseby fight:
Charity was slain at that same time, Jack Tell-troth too, a friend of mine,
Likewise then did die, rost beef and shred pie,
Duck, Goose and Capon no quarter found.
Yet let's be content, and the times lament, you see the world turn'd upside down.
A somewhat melancholy melody, but can be sung in an upbeat style, as by Maddy Prior. This was the tune said to have been played by the British army at the surrender at Yorktown. You can see why!
I grew up in the conservative Missouri Synod Lutheran Church. Our mommas made sure we were in church on Ash Wednesday, Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, Palm Sunday and Easter.
Maundy Thursday (Holy Thursday), btw, commemorates the institution of the Eucharist on the day when Jesus partook of His last supper with the Disciples.
For most of us conservative Protestants, Ash Wednesday is an important Holy Day the same as it is to Catholics, except we don't do the ashes on the forehead.
If my church did ashes, I would wear them as an honor and reminder of the gift of Holy Communion.
Interesting to say the least.
“More Protestants turn to Ash Wednesday”
When I saw the headline, I thought judgment had come on a segment of Christians, reducing us to ash!
Just look at the Super Bowl. It's the high holy Mass for sports fans. And I don't mean that to sacrilege our sacrament - it's a manifestation of our need for ritual that has grown more and more as people have left their respective faiths. It's a sign of searching that can't be satisified by instruments of man.
. . . or their faiths have left them.
My grandfather-in-law would not recognize the UMC as it exists today - with trendy political causes, pro-aborts, female preachers, etc. etc.
And we used to be Episcopalians before we sought refuge across the Tiber. The destruction of that denomination is apparent to all . . . 'gay' bishops, worshiping the U.N. "Millenium Development Goals" in place of the Stations of the Cross, and scorched earth lawsuits against parishes that don't toe the new party line!!????!!!
Because they (re)discovered that it had no apostolic authority, therefore the church had no basis to invent such a practice.
It's too bad the modern "protestant" prelates subject their flocks to such spiritual abuses.
. . . you just sawed off the limb you were sitting on.
I think the mainline protestants have always observed Ash Wed. It’s those with Anabaptist and Puritan roots who think it’s too “popish.”
Anything to feel religious. Vanity, vanity...(sigh).
“But all their works they do for to be seen of men....” Matt.23:5
I have a bridge to sell you.
"So that even they who offered the holocausts to the Lord, offered the sacrifices to the Lord girded with haircloths, and with ashes upon their head." Judith 4:15
"But the children of Israel, when they saw the multitude of them, prostrated themselves upon the ground, putting ashes upon their heads, praying with one accord, that the God of Israel would shew his mercy upon his people." Judith 7:4
"And when they were gone, Judith went into her oratory: and putting on haircloth, laid ashes on her head: and falling down prostrate before the Lord, she cried to the Lord, saying:" Judith 9:1
"Now when Mardochai had heard these things, he rent his garments, and put on sackcloth, strewing ashes on his head: and he cried with a loud voice in the street in the midst of the city, shewing the anguish of his mind." Esther 4:1
"And I set my face to the Lord my God, to pray and make supplication with fasting, and sackcloth, and ashes." Daniel 9:3
"And they fasted that day, and put on haircloth, and put ashes upon their heads: and they rent their garments:" 1 Machabees 3:47
"And they rent their garments, and made great lamentation, and put ashes on their heads:" 1 Machabees 4:39
**Better brush up on your limited knowledge of Scripture.**
Sorry, I don’t accept Judith or the Maccabees as “scripture” or the Word of God. The books of Daniel and Esther, yes.
Nevertheless, I haven’t seen any of your persuasion rending their clothes, or heard of them falling prostrate (Webster’s: lying face down), or wearing sackcloth. You do those things as well?
Even though Daniel was respected in captivity, he longed for the deliverance of his people, the restoration of Israel. He wasn’t performing a vain routine.
In Esther, the situation was dire; imminent, absolute elimiation of the Jews. Put in the same situation, I would’ve been in anguish as well.
I’m also not aware of the practice in the New Testament.
But, if it makes you feel religious, more power to ya, ace.
Something that is forgotten in the American Church.
Back in the old days we used to have cemeteries (aka Church Yards) at most churches. We were hit in the face with our own mortality every time we went to church. Now we have megacemeteries tucked away an the only time we face death is when it strikes close to home. (Heidelberg Catechism
People don't want doctrine, they want practical tips on life (Osteen, Warren, etc). But what is more practical than this, seeing that we are all going to die:
Question 1. What is thy only comfort in life and death?
Answer: That I with body and soul, both in life and death, am not my own, but belong unto my faithful Saviour Jesus Christ; who, with his precious blood, has fully satisfied for all my sins, and delivered me from all the power of the devil; and so preserves me that without the will of my heavenly Father, not a hair can fall from my head; yea, that all things must be subservient to my salvation, and therefore, by his Holy Spirit, He also assures me of eternal life, and makes me sincerely willing and ready, henceforth, to live unto him.
The same anti-Catholic Puritans that founded America.
Ooops! Did I say that?
"Massachusetts Bay and parts adjacent" were Puritan. They banned Christmas, Roger Williams, and Morton of Merrymount, infected the Indians with smallpox, burned witches on "spectral evidence", and otherwise annoyed decent people.
The Middle Atlantic states were Presbyterian (and Quaker and Moravian in the case of Pennsylvania).
The South was Anglican (and Catholic in the case of Maryland).
Nice try. Take one of the free brochures on your way out.
I checked with our priest, and he can simply consecrate our family plot when the time comes. There's room for 3 or 4 more, or as many as 10 if we cremate.
Our suburban parish doesn't have enough land for a cemetery -- there's a tiny memorial garden where ashes can be interred, but that's it.
It exceeded that by far.
Retained placenta -> sepsis -> childbed fever -> death.
As it happened, though, when they knocked me out to do the D&C my greedy uterus relaxed and let go of the placenta . . . . so maybe a stiff dose of whisky would have done the trick, if the midwife had the wit to administer it . . . .
Funny story -- my obstetricians were medically identical but personality-wise like night and day. My daughter was delivered by the soft-spoken, patrician Virginia Catholic . . . the next morning I was in my room that I was sharing with an older, scholarly mother who was finishing up her doctorate in Old Testament Theology at Emory U. We were having a very learned discussion about her thesis topic, the ancient Queens of Judah (most of the learning was on her part, and I was saying "uh-huh" at the right spots) when we heard a noise down the hall . . . like an approaching tornado.
My other obstetrician, the little fireplug of a red-headed Irishman, was boiling down the hall shouting as he came. He came bursting into our room, and shouted, "Hi, girl, what's the h#!!'s this I hear about you hoarding your placenta? We can't give the G.D. things away!"
My roommate was utterly shocked. After he went boiling off down the hall, she whispered, "WHO was THAT?" "My OB. Isn't he GREAT?"
I did love that man. God rest his soul, he died in harness a couple of years ago, out west on his way to a medical convention. He was a splendid physician and a wonderful man (if noisy).
They were in fact very unpleasant people, whether burning witches and hanging adulteresses in Massachusetts or smashing statues and stained glass in England, and it is a blessing that their actual religious and social practices were NOT transmitted beyond Massachusetts Bay.
And yet so many non-Catholic churches seem to deal ONLY in emotion!!!
As Catholics we have so many blessings. Our faith is full, it is emotional, it is intellectual, it is based on the Truth that cannot be denied and when our emotional faith has failed us at times we can grasp the intellectual faith.
When words fail us, we can speak to God in prayers written centuries ago and know that there really isn’t anything new under the sun, God knows already or we can just remain silent and listen. We can worship by partaking of the Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity of our Lord, Jesus Christ or sit in quiet contemplation before Him.
It IS as complete a faith that we will find this side of Heaven. The Sacraments and the sacramentals remind us everytime we participate or see them that God is in charge and that we need to only rely on Him.
What a faith we have! One that operates through our senses, our physical bodies our minds and our spirits to make us whole through Christ, our Lord.
Sacrements are observed by many Christian denominations.
As far as I know, many Lutheran synods have held Ash Wednesday and Lenten services forever.
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Please ping me to note-worthy Pro-Life or Catholic threads, or other threads of interest.
You are right, it lets you remember that all of this is only a fleeting vapor.
Sadly, the church I grew up in will probably close one of these days, as the population in rural Nebraska is graying rapidly.
I was thinking of their profound and bitter anti-Catholicism which spread far beyond Massachusetts Bay.
. . . . not to mention the mainline Anglican anti-Catholicism which was nourished right through Victorian times by such otherwise admirable men as Charles Kingsley. . . . his public and disgraceful correspondence with Cardinal Newman makes the Puritans look like models of charm and decorum by comparison . . . .
. . . . I can only conclude that there was a lot of it going round, and we can't blame it all on the Puritans! They hated Anglicans, too, after all!
No. That would have read: "More Protestants are turning to Ash, Wednesday", but if you'll notice, no comma.
20 Then Jesus began to denounce the cities in which most of his miracles had been performed, because they did not repent. 21 "Woe to you, Korazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! If the miracles that were performed in you had been performed in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes. 22 But I tell you, it will be more bearable for Tyre and Sidon on the day of judgment than for you.
4 Jesus answered, "It is written: 'Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.'"
Lutheran and Epis. Maybe Methodists, not sure.
Thanks for the clarification. With so much poor grammar in the news media, I didn’t want to assume anything.
Romans 5:1 Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ:
2 By whom also we have access by faith into this grace wherein we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God.
3 And not only so, but we glory in tribulations also: knowing that tribulation worketh patience;
4 And patience, experience; and experience, hope:
5 And hope maketh not ashamed; because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us.
Thanks for that passage. Looks like a another example of where great conviction would cause great humbling and repentance.
I reminded of Ninevah’s repentance, where the king SAT in ashes, man and beast were covered with sackcloth, an they cried mightily to God. Do you folks sit in ashes as well?
I’m curious to the sackcloth matter. Is there a site showing some of your persuasion wearing it?
**..every word that comes from the mouth of God.’”**
Ah yes. 39 He answered, "A wicked and adulterous generation asks for a miraculous sign! But none will be given it except the sign of the prophet Jonah.
Do you folks sit in ashes as well?
On it maybe, not IN it.
Im curious to the sackcloth matter. Is there a site showing some of your persuasion wearing it?
Hair shirts (the equivalent of sackcloth) was popular during medeival times. It is somewhat out of favor these days. Nevertheless, we do Ash Wednesday, do you folks ignore the Scriptures completely when it suits you? How does it work exactly?
**..every word that comes from the mouth of God.**
Do I detect a Phariseeical approach to Scripture?
You’re the one that brought up Matt. 4:4.
**Hair shirts (the equivalent of sackcloth)was popular during medeival times. It is somewhat out of favor these days.**
As must be the rending of clothes, for I haven’t noticed any Catholics or Proddies doing those rituals. And that is my point: Those things witnessed in scripture were done in great conviction and outcrying to God for deliverance. There was dramatic change if their life. It was not some vain yearly ritual.
All of my life I’ve lived and worked around people that observed the ash ritual, and it really showed no dramatic change in their daily walk.
I've met many Protestant and non-denominational Christians who say Jesus is their personal savior and then act no different from secularists in their mores.
So true. Not all that say, Lord, Lord, shall enter in. Because he never knew them. That will be quite a shock.