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Ash Wednesday Memory

I had never participated in an Ash Wednesday service until I had almost graduated from high school.  I’d only known that God was calling me to ministry for about nine months and was still exploring what that meant.  On that Wednesday morning, I crossed the street to the Catholic Church as they were celebrating this holy day.  A few of my classmates went with me, they were Catholic except for maybe one other.  When it was time to receive the ashes, one of the other students grabbed my arm and said, “You can’t go up there.  You aren’t Catholic.”  I was as hurt as I was angry and I sat cross-armed the rest of the service.  When I returned to the school for breakfast, I told a few of my friends about the experience and one of the girls said, “Come with me tonight.  I’m Episcopalian and we’ll let you do whatever you want.”

I attended that service with about four other students, all female.  When we took communion, it was real wine.  The friend next to me was a United Methodist.  When she got a mouth full of wine from the common cup she almost spit it back on the priest as she was expecting grape juice.  We got our wine and our ashes and before heading back to the school one of the ladies said, “Wait, I need to wash the ashes off.”  I had seen our Catholic students wearing their ashes all day long and I wanted to go back and show that Methodists could be imposed with ashes, too, so I indignantly asked, “What for?”  The reply I got was “Jesus said you are to wash your face and not look like your fasting.”  I was defeated, so I went to the men’s room to wash my forehead.

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