I grew up without an Ash Wednesday service. In fact, I was in my 40's pastoring a church in Boise when I attended my first Ash Wednesday service at NNU chapel when my friend Diane LeClerc gave the message. I was so deeply moved that ever since, the past 10 years or so I have conducted a full Ash Wednesday service. Songs, Scriptures, Message and Imposition of Ashes.
We will have 400-500 on Easter but this service ranks the lowest at a poor 25 or 30. It seems all too-Catholic for my tribe. I've given it my best shot to educate folks on Ashes to Fire and they like the Devotional, the focus, the directive, the messages, the preaching.....and will come for Good Friday (about 80 or so) and we will have 200 or more at Easter Breakfast, but Ash Wednesday just is not that big a thing for most I pastor.
Someone mentioned to me last night: "Is this our Catholic Nazarene service?" I've taught history that this predates Catholicism by a country mile, a sign or repentance, and read all the great texts on sackcloth and ashes but to little avail. It seems to be a cultural thing, a response by those in the 'free church' tradition to less liturgy, etc.
And yet, despite the smallness of it, Ash Wednesday is necessary for my soul. I cannot get to Resurrection without repentance and the sign of the smallness of it all, is required for me.
Anyone out there have a similar experience?