ECUMENICAL ASH WEDNESDAY SERVICE
FITZROY PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH, 77 UNIVERSITY STREET, BELFAST
MARCH 2, 2022 @ 8pm
Preacher: FR MARTIN MAGILL
Without question the most spiritually satisfying experience of Lent that Janice and I ever had was in 2020 when we were ashed at what was believed to have been Belfast’s first Ecumenical Ash Wednesday service in St. Mary’s in Chapel Lane.
It was the second time I had been ashed. The first time it was a bit of a surprise - shock to be honest.
I was to be a guest speaker for a few days at an Episcopalian Church in Birmingham, Alabama. The Cathedral of Advent is one of the most evangelical Episcopalian churches in America.
I was picked up from the airport and driven straight to an Ash Wednesday service. Sitting near the front I soon realised that they were all getting ash on their head.
This was not the practice of Protestants in Ballymena where I grew up. I will be honest. I felt awkward. In Northern Ireland we are conditioned to what is Catholic and what is Protestant. The differences are dug deep.
There was nothing I could do though and I reckoned if I was going to preach in this Church the next day that I better go forward. So, in a prayer blessing I received my ash. I will be honest again. I was glad that I was in Alabama as I left, looking like a Catholic!!!!
Of course, the truth is, that like my evangelical brothers in Alabama, it is not only Catholics around the world who get ashed! In other parts of the world many Reformed Christians are happy wearing the mark of Christ’s death.
Our 2020 experience could not have been more different. Of course we had spent more time in Catholic circles and discovered that the caricatures of what Catholics believe was more myth than reality. Oh do not get me wrong there are differences in some theology and practice. However, we had also been enriched by sharing our love of Jesus with Catholic brothers and sisters, learning particularly in contemplation and prayer.
To be ashed in St Mary’s was still a little awkward, particularly on the way home where you realised that people’s prejudices were stereotyping us.
In the end that decision to come forward and commit to deeper disciplines during Lent came back to us as we walked through it, particularly in that most of that Lent was spent in strict Lockdown.
Having that ash put on our heads, a reminder of our human frailties, also reminded us of our passion for Jesus and his ways. When I stumbled through Lent 2020 I was brought back to the tangible decision, a picture of our public profession.
We in Fitzroy are delighted to be hosting the next Ecumenical Ash Wednesday service on March 2nd, 2022. The preacher will be Fr Martin Magill who is almost part of the team at Fitzroy and there will be an opportunity to receive the ash.
Why not come along and experience the richness of such a service. There is no obligation to receive the ash but as a sign at the beginning of Lent of our journey towards Jesus’ death and resurrection, let me invite you to consider it.
to book: email - firstname.lastname@example.org