Tuesday, March 01, 2022

Ash and oil


I hold Wednesday evenings to be holy. Wednesday evening is the primary point in the week when my running club gathers. A community made up of those who practice, to varying degrees, all faiths and none, I am their priest and they are my people.

I decline to attend congregational business meetings on Wednesday evenings, for that is when I run alongside our parishioners. I listen to their confessions, offered in hope of counsel more than sacramental absolution, and more in hope of the sacrament of being heard than in hope of counsel. I open the chapel for them to sit in the still darkness and light a candle in holy defiance of evil. I hallow their concerns for their families, and I trust them with the honest concerns I have for my own family, because the gift of listening that they extend to me reminds me of the great goodness of humanity: in their dishonest words and actions, politicians and media billionaires do not much represent the common people, and I need to be reminded of that on a regular basis.

But once a year, I make an exception. Not for business agendas, but for palm ash mixed with fragrant oil. For making the sign of the cross on foreheads with my forefinger, a sign that brings together our common shared humanity taken up into the life of God by and with and in Jesus. The visible symbol of all the largely hidden connections mentioned above. Ash and oil, a blessing and anointing of our frail and beloved and fruitful nature. One Wednesday a year that helps to sustain the other Wednesdays (when I put on strange clothes and do a strange thing).

So, this Wednesday at 7.00 p.m. I shall be found at the altar at St Nicholas presiding at Holy Communion instead of at the sports club ready to set off on this week’s training session. But for those who run, and those who don’t, I shall also be found at the open church throughout the day* offering space to pray for peace in Ukraine and Russia and beyond, and optional ashing for those who wish to receive it.

* 8.00 - 9.00 a.m., 10.00 a.m. - 1.00 p.m., 3.30 - 4.30 p.m. and from 6.00 p.m. onward.


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