Ash Wednesday Service


(a starter kit)





Overarching THEME: Nurturing Relationships


Guiding premise:

If not for others, then not for life;

if not with others, then not with God.

A movement towards others is a movement into wholeness.



God’s love is uncontainable. (Get over it.)

God’s mercy is beyond grasping. (Delight in it.)





Gathering of God’s People


Stillness:                      Bell, candles, cross



Come Lord and be our freedom.

Move us out of fear and into freedom.

Stay Lord and be our freedom.

Move us out of emptiness into life.

Arise Lord and be our freedom.

Find us where we are

And move us into greater wholeness. Amen.



From ash to ash, through death to life; Jesus says: do not be afraid – choose life. God of all conquering love, find us, heal us; make us worthy of each other’s best. Amen.

All sit.


Ministry of the Word

Question: What if there was a magic wand that you could wave and remove a flaw from your own character. What would you wish to remove?

Song plays – Miserere (Cat Empire)  or via Spotify etc


Text on screen:

Things that might feel like flaws but must never be removed:

            Your personality

            Your identity

            Your history

Anything that is the essence of you, including your beauty and will and interests and humour and kindness and caring nature.

Flaws worth removing





            Envy: you are not truly happy for others success, you doubt your own and work too hard to “keep up” with others

            Bitterness, and the absence of gratitude and joy

            Sarcasm, words that sound like a joke but actually mock and belittle

            Eagerness to be liked

            Eagerness to please others rather than be honest

            Entitlement: a sense that you deserve the best of anything, just because

            Neediness: your main way of attracting ‘connection’ with others is through your needs

            Emotional volatility

            Hypersensitivity and defensiveness



Lord have mercy. Lord have mercy.

Christ have mercy. Christ have mercy.

Lord have mercy. Lord have mercy.

                                                (or could be sung)


God is interested in separating good from bad.

But the line that separates good from bad does not run between us and others, or us and ‘them’ but down the middle of every human being.

That is, all of us have flaws, and all of us have things that could be cut away from within that would make us better human beings.


Kyrie:               Lord have mercy

                        (sung or spoken)


Reading:          Luke 3.15-20

As the people were filled with expectation, and all were questioning in their hearts concerning John, whether he might be the Messiah, John answered all of them by saying, “I baptize you with water; but one who is more powerful than I is coming; I am not worthy to untie the thong of his sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. His winnowing fork is in his hand, to clear his threshing floor and to gather the wheat into his granary; but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.”

 So, with many other exhortations, he proclaimed the good news to the people.



Winnowing separates chaff from grain, not grain from grain.

Jesus the Winnower: removes the things that spoils, corrupts and injures.


Kyrie:               Lord have mercy

                        (sung or spoken)


Holding the urn of ashes (from the altar)

O God, this ash here is mixed and bound in oil,

So let your Spirit bind with our brokenness,

set us free from the mechanism that binds us to death,

take what we offer, our wrists and our life blood,

breathe us into us into fuller, truer human beings.



Kyrie:               Lord have mercy


 Right now, what would you want removed from within you?

Name it. Write it down. Screw it up and place in Bin, later to be burned.

Offer your forehead, your wrist for ashing: choose life.


NB: Covid change is the self marking of own wrists with the sign of the cross.



From dust you have come and to dust you shall return.

Do not be afraid. Look to Jesus who has overcome death.

Choose life.



Jesus’ wrists bear the marks of the cross and to this day, his heart is surrendered into passion.

Do not be afraid.

You are found.

You are forgiven.

Forgive others.

Forgive yourself.

            Choose life.

            Follow Jesus into wholeness.


Lord’s Prayer


Sending Out


Pause: enjoying the ending of Miserere is a treat. The portion around “Long live living”. Students will find it hard not to let this sing into their hearts.

This recording is extra special –


Sending Canticle

O God, there is no escape from who we are.

Wherever we go, there we are.

And wherever we go, there you are too:

We are loved and need not be afraid.

We are sent from here, into community

To act justly and love tenderly

And walk humbly our God.