Ash wednesday sacred space

[for a wrap up see the previous post]

This space was prepared for staff at the Synod Office. It was open for about 3 1/2 hours, in the chapel at the office.

The chapel was set up with 5 stations, and an entry point, all on low tables. People sat on cushions. Each table was covered with black card.

At the door:

Welcome to this sacred space.

There are different stations placed around the room – please move around them at your own pace.

There is no right or wrong way to participate, and you can stay as long as you would like.
Entry point:


[This was a kind of bridging space. this is the thing i never give enough thought to – giving people a chance to breathe when they come in, to make the transition from work to space. it’s especially important in a work environment, because the time between sitting at your desk and being in the chapel is probably about 90 seconds… nowhere near long enough to get that last email or phone conversation out of your head. most people seem to catch the lift up with someone else, so they will have talked about work all the way…]

Set up:

computer showing video loop of leaves blowing across the road; copies of Psalm 103:13-16, printed on ripped bits of transparent paper.


Ash Wednesday marks our entry into the journey of Lent.

At the heart of this day is a reminder of the simplest and yet most difficult reality: that God is God, and we are not.

Before you enter into the space, take a moment to slow down

read the bible passage



Station 1:


Set up:

cast iron bowl with burning charcoal, incense resin (the cast iron bowl gets really, really hot. i put rock salt into the bottom of the bowl, and i put it on a trivet, and i still feel nervous… and don’t even think about touching it for two hours after you last put some charcoal in. it’s also only going to work if your smoke alarm isn’t very sensitive. but it’s worth it.)


Even if we know that our life is finite, mortal
it seems we often wish for some part of us to stay alive –
some achievement or success,
a mark that we were here.

On Ash Wednesday we come face to face with the reality that all that we are, and all we can do, fades in the light of the love that exists before us, beyond us, in spite of us

[and if the fear that reality brings is a sign of our humanity;
the liberation it brings is the beginning of our faithfulness]

Place some of the incense onto the charcoal – and with it place any desire for success, permanence and immortality.

Let it be burnt to ashes.


Station 2:


Set up: printed images from news photos, burnt around the edges, sitting in a pile of ashes, little sealable plastic bags filled with ashes.


We live in a world where too many people’s dreams of justice and peace lie in ashes.

The call of faith is to take on the struggle for justice and peace for those who no longer can.

What does that call cost you?
What are the things that hold you back?

Take some of the ashes with you to carry during Lent. Let them remind you of those who need us to act for justice and peace.


Station 3:


Set up: black card covered with ashes, a pointy stick (i used a chopstick, because i had one in my desk drawer…)


If you have been marked too many times by ashes this year

if you need no more reminders of life’s mortality
or of the impermanence of dreams and hard fought ideals,

if you have learnt too well the lessons of fragility and preciousness,

if the only prayer you can muster is ‘enough’,

write your protest into the ashes here.


Station 4:


Set up:

bread and wine sitting in ashes


On Ash Wednesday we stand at the edge of the Lenten journey into the wilderness.

Perhaps the wilderness is already your home.

Perhaps standing here is no act of faith
[at least, not of your choosing]:
the wilderness just grew around you
until everywhere you looked
it was.

If the purpose of entering this wilderness, this journey of lent,
is to be stripped back to nothing,
perhaps it feels like you have already arrived at its destination

left only with uncertainty
and disillusionment
and the cold ashes of dreams that once burnt fierce
with faith’s passion.

If you can, stop and rest here a while.

If you would like, take some food for the journey.


Station 5:


Set up:

bowl of ashes mixed with oil

If, this Ash Wednesday, you do not feel worthy to carry the blessing of the one who is all love and justice and hope,
make a sign of the cross on the back of your hand with the ashes.

Carry the mark with you today as a reminder that
your worthiness is never part of God’s equation.


This is a pdf of all of the above: ashwedfinal.pdf

This is a pdf of the words, formatted for the stations: ashwedfinal_formatted.pdf