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Thinking the Faith, Praying the Faith, Living the Faith is written by the PC(USA) Office of Theology and Worship.

Thinking, praying, and living the faith is at the core of ministry in the Office of Theology and Worship. In the following videos, learn more about what thinking, praying, and living the faith means to the leadership of the Office of Theology and Worship. Discover why it matters and what difference it makes in our lives, work, and worship.  

Charles Wiley  
Barry Ensign-George
David Gambrell
Christine Hong 
Karen Russell

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March 6, 2014

Back to Basics on Ash Wednesday

In the congregation where I worship, I have the solemn joy of visiting each class of children’s choirs and talking to them about Ash Wednesday. Last night was the third year running … which means we’ve now entered the realm of sacred and inviolable tradition.

I tell the kids about the biblical origins of ashes as a sign of repentance and sorrow. I ask them to think about times when they’ve felt sorry or sad. I tell them how Jesus came and lived and died and rose to show how much God loves them, even and especially when they feel sad or sorry. We talk about the shape of the cross, how it is a symbol of Jesus and his love. Last year, in one class, there was some confusion about cremation, so this year I brought a dried-up palm branch to show what (not whom!) we burn to get the ashes.

Last night I visited the four classes in reverse order of age, starting with the fourth and fifth graders and working down to the four and five year olds. It was an interesting way to develop my Ash Wednesday “elevator speech.” By the time you get to preschool you’ve got to whittle it down to the bare bones basics. You. Jesus. Love.

After we talk for a few minutes, I give them the opportunity to receive the ashes. I make it very clear that this is up to them. They have the freedom to say yes or no, and every year a few decline. This year I asked the choir directors to impose the ashes while I sang a song from our new hymnal. I think this was a good choice. The choir directors know them all by name, like God knows us.

Last night, when I finished talking to the last class (the four and five year olds), one kid looked a little frightened. I think he got it. The kid sitting next to him was beaming, and asked if we could do this every day. I think he got it too.

Tags: worship