Ashes go public with their blessing
WYOMING, Mich. (WMC) -- Ash Wednesday is now just two weeks away. In a recent article that appeared on Ministry Matters website, Emily Case, a United Methodist pastor from Georgia, spoke of her experience of "Taking Ash Wednesday Public." Last year Emily spent Ash Wednesday at Starbuck's, sharing scripture and imparting ashes from a small corner table.
Right here in West Michigan, the Rev. Marcia Elders (pictured right) also took Ash Wednesday public in 2012. Her sacred space wasn't Starbuck's but a YMCA. Here's Marcia's account of how she helped those who came to exercise their bodies, exercise their spirits, as well ...
"In the fall of 2012 I preached a sermon series on evangelism. In doing so, I made the suggestion that we change South Wyoming UMC's mission statement from 'our mission is to be the presence of Jesus Christ in our community' to 'our mission is to be the transforming presence of Jesus Christ in our community.'
"What a difference a word makes! Adding the word transforming to our mission statement inspired me to pray for a creative way to transform our community. One way our community has already been transformed in the past two years is by the opening of a new Spartan Store's YMCA
where I became a member.
"Every time I go to the Y, I am amazed at the number of people who are coming and going, all with the singular goal of getting healthy. I know, from the Y’s mission statement and from the presence of a Chapel in the Y, that there is concern to build spiritual health as well as physical health. That triggered this idea…I wondered if the Y would allow me to celebrate the beginning of the Lenten Season with the 'Imposition of Ashes.' (For more on this practice in the United Methodist Church, click here
" As I thought about it, I got more and more excited about offering my services as a clergy person to the members and staff of the YMCA. Our goals are the same – healthy bodies, healthy spirits, healthy Christians!
"I submitted a proposal to the membership director and was surprised and delighted when my proposal was accepted. I don’t know who was more blessed by the opportunity to serve our community in this way, me or Y members and staff. My presence was warmly and graciously received. Several members of our church family also visited on Ash Wednesday, celebrating the beginning of the Lenten season and viewing the Y’s new facility.
"I believe Lent is a time to get healthy both spiritually and physically. I thank God for the opportunity to invite others to the same!"
Emily Case is equally enthusiastic about her time at Starbuck's. She issues a challenge. "Step out on faith. Find a place. A Starbucks. A country diner. The local breakfast place. A local coffee shop. A place where people gather and pass by—lots of different people, not just people from your church. Ask your congregation to meet you there, and celebrate the beginning of Lent. Be a public witness in a way you never imagined."
Marcia Elders found the YMCA. What place will you find?
~edited by Kay DeMoss, Conference Weekly News Senior Writer