I wanted to go to an Ash Wednesday service today. My own church's service is at night (which I don't much like ~ it seems that we're saying, "OK, we'll do this, but late enough that no one will see us") and I have a class on Wednesday nights.
Then I discovered that my old Methodist church has a service at noon, so I thought I'd go over there.
And then I spent some time agonizing over whether I wanted to spend the afternoon teaching my Jewish students with ashes smudged on my forehead. Most of them would be merely curious, and supportive rather than offended. Many of the teachers, perhaps the opposite. I finally decided against it. If I worked in a secular environment, my solution would be different. During Advent, I wrote about going to a church meeting one night where one of the gentlemen had come directly from work wearing a Christmas tie. That would not have happened in my workplace. My workplace is a community and a home for people whose beliefs, and contextualization of their their beliefs, differ from mine.
I don't know whether or not I was right. One of my colleagues, headed for her UCC service tonight, agreed with me. Another, a rabbi, said he was genuinely sorry that we felt our observance might be offensive to others.
Result: No ashes on my forehead. Ashes in my heart.
(Image: Armenian Temptation of Jesus).