I saw this quick piece on Nashville Bishop David Choby’s visit to a Protestant university. Nice. Not surprising that reformation churches would latch on to this tradition. Not surprising at all. Check out Bishop Choby on video.
When I was at Michigan State in the mid-90’s, one of our ministry colleagues in the Baptist parish was a Notre Dame liturgy grad. He asked me for ashes his first year in East Lansing. We burned our palms for ashes and had plenty to spare, I told him. I passed on a recipe and a contact with a Catholic goods store in the area.
Todd Johnson, of the Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena:
We have a whole generation of people who are familiar with using symbols. Kids have grown up using icons on their computers. Symbols mean more to them than words.
Dr Johnson also thinks 9/11 sparked a deeper observance of Ash Wednesday:
(The ashes are) a reminder of your baptism, and time to examine your life. The ashes used to be a sign of sin. Now they are a sign of our mortality.
Maybe that’s part of it. One of the possible acclamations to greet the penitent is “Remember that you are dust …” and that communicates mortality on the surface.