February 7, 2008

Post-Christian Ashes

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , at 1:08 pm by Rev. Thomas Perchlik

Last night we held a Universalist Ash Wednesday service.  Rev. Derek Parker led the service and included some interesting remarks on the history of Unitarian and Universalist ambivalence about the day.  For example Main and New Hampshire sometime ago set aside the day as a holiday, but called it “The Day of Fasting,” rather than “Ash Wednesday.”  He also noted that many Universalists would mark their hands rather than their foreheads with the ashes, because it fit more with Jesus’ advice that we not “disfigure our faces” like the hypocrites when they fast, and because it was a more visible to ourselves rather than to others as reminder of our mortality.  Derek focused on the theme of mortality, which was all the more poignant because I had just read that afternoon the text of the sermon in which Rev. Forrester Church announced that his cancer had returned and he would likely not survive its ravages.  It was a very fine service, especially the moment when Derek spoke to each person who participated by name, saying “… remember that from dust you have come and to dust you shall return,”  or something like that, then he spontaneously asked me to mark his hand and I had to speak the words I had not memorized.  It was a meaningful moment, sad and happy, more peaceful than anxious.  But what impressed me most was the fact that out of a congregation of 250 only seven people attended this service.  Despite all I have done to include Christianity clearly as a living part of our tradition, not just an ancient root, the congregation remains “post-Christian.”