by Deborah Woolsey
It was a great experience this year. Katharin Foster joined us for a little while and Elizabeth Thompson stayed with me the whole time and gave out hot apple cider. We were able to engage more people than last year despite incredibly cold temperatures. My favorite part was when someone stopped, looked me in the eye and asked me what Ash Wednesday is. Describing the day and it’s meaning when I felt pressure to do so quickly because of cold (there were a few times I couldn’t feel my face) and time ( people were on their way to class etc) as well as accurately and still be theologically sound all in a way that anyone could understand was an enjoyable challenge. The majority of the people who asked (I’d say there must have been around 6 people who asked) chose to receive the ashes after I explained it. We also had a few who were grateful for the reminder that it was Ash Wednesday and even walked out of their way to receive ashes. Two people asked if it was okay to receive ashes if they were not Episcopalian. We found out there was a great deal if conversation about Ash Wednesday at Free Lunch. A few who had questions from that conversation came back outside to ask us.
My favorite encounter was after a student gratefully received ashes. He turned and started walking toward a group of students he knew and one person in the group yelled out to him: “What the hell is on your face!?” He grinned and said, “Ashes, it’s Ash Wednesday.” Then she asked him what that was. He explained it, and she said, “That’s cool,” and came and asked to receive ashes herself. Definitely one of the best parts of the day for me.