February 26 is Ash Wednesday on the Christian calendar, a day people throughout the world will go to church, to mark the start of the season of Lent, the 46 days before Easter, often a time for penitence and reflection. The day is named for the practice of imposing ashes, a tradition that many Christians have found to be a meaningful part of the Ash Wednesday liturgy.
If, however, you can’t make it to church on Ash Wednesday, the ashes can come to you! Saint Stephen Lutheran Church offers this creative alternative. Pastor Joseph Graumann and assisting minister Ann Gibson will be available in Marlborough near the corner of Main and Florence streets, from noon to 1:00 pm on Ash Wednesday, and will impose ashes and offer a blessing to anyone who asks. Those who prefer not to receive ashes are also welcome to come for prayer or conversation.
“Ash has been a symbol of death and mourning since ancient times,” Pastor Graumann says. “Christians mark their foreheads with ashes to remember that ‘we are dust, and to dust we shall return.’ We remember our mortality, but also in the sign of the cross, how Jesus triumphed over death,” he adds.
Lenten Services February 26-April 1
In addition to noontime ashes and prayer on Main Street, St. Stephen Lutheran Church will offer traditional Ash Wednesday worship at 7:00 p.m. on February 26 at the church at 537 Bolton St., Marlborough.
On subsequent Wednesdays in Lent, March 4, 11, 18, 25 and April 1, people are invited to gather at St. Stephen for a simple soup supper (one soup is vegetarian) at 6:30 PM, followed by a choral Vespers—or evening prayer—service. “Lent is a time of discipline, but it is also a time of celebration and beauty,” Pastor Graumann says. “On March 25, our friends from Temple Emanuel in Marlborough will be joining us,” he noted.
Vespers will feature Marty Haugen’s Holden Evening Prayer, along with a reading and reflection from the Lenten stories from the Hebrew Bible. Holden Evening Prayer “is easy to sing and focuses on Christ as the light of the world. During evening prayer, we hear the story of Mary and her response to God’s news that she would bear for us a savior. We pray for a world in need, and we receive God’s blessing,” Pastor Graumann said.
Written in 1985-86 by Marty Haugen during a musical residency at Holden Village, a scenic Lutheran camp in the mountains of Washington State, Holden Evening Prayer is a simple Lutheran vespers service that follows traditional form while using contemporary and inclusive language. Since then, the service has been adopted around the world. Haugen is a composer of liturgical music for Lutheran, Roman Catholic and other denominations, with over 400 compositions.