Today is Ash Wednesday, but what does that really mean?  There is an Ash Wednesday Service at First Church Longmeadow tonight at 7pm, but what happens there?  Read on for those answers and more:

What is Ash Wednesday?  

This is the first day of the church season of Lent. So called because the church has historically marked this day as one of reflection and introspection and confessing of one’s need for God’s forgiveness.   Ashes are a sign of our acknowledgement of our failures and indicate our human need for God’s love and forgiveness. Lent is the church season that leads up to Holy Week, Jesus’ death and resurrection.


I thought only Catholics celebrated Ash Wednesday?  

Throughout the world most Christians observe Ash Wednesday, although it is fair to say that some Protestant churches do not observe this holy day, and some denominations have only begun to observe this day in the past 50 years.


What happens in the Ash Wednesday service at First Church?

At First Church we will sing and pray, listen to scripture and celebrate holy communion as we consider together the love and grace of God and begin the spiritual journey of Lent.   It is a shorter service that does include imposition of ashes on the forehead (more traditional) or the back of the hand (more recent innovation).  Here is a link to one of the prayers that will be included in this evening’s service, together with an article describing some of the background.


If I attend the service, do I have to have ashes placed on my forehead?

Receiving ashes are an optional part of this service. Increasingly many of our church members are finding receiving ashes to be a deeply meaningful aspect of beginning Lent. But the invitation during the service is optional.


Can anyone join the service, or do I have to be a member?

Absolutely anyone and everyone is welcome at First Church. Our welcome statement is: “We, the First Church of Christ in Longmeadow, strive to live out our stated mission to seek love and justice in our world. We welcome persons of every age, race, ethnicity, gender identity and expression, sexual orientation, mental, physical, emotional, economic and social status, and circumstance of life into the full participation and ministry of our church.” No matter who you are, or where you are on your journey, you are welcome at First Church Longmeadow.


I might want to come to the service, but I would have to bring my children with me. Is that ok?

Absolutely. Children are always welcome at First Church. The service on Wednesday is relatively short in duration, and involves music & singing, so there should be plenty to occupy little ones.


I cannot attend the service this Wednesday, but I would like to know more about activities during Lent at First Church. Where should I look?

There are many activities at First Church during Lent, in addition to the regular Sunday Morning Worship services at 10am. The full calendar of events with descriptions is available on the First Church Website’s Lent Section. There will be family friendly meals on Wednesdays during Lent at 6pm in the Buxton Room at First Church (at the far end of the hall on the first floor). These meals will include elements of worship while we are around the tables, including each week a brief communion liturgy. There also will be a devotional reading group after the meals on Wednesdays discussing the book Gifts of the Dark Wood. Copies are available for purchase in the church office for $13 and online. We also may have copies available on reserve at Storrs Library in Longmeadow. Childcare will be provided. For additional details, please visit the church website.

For several Sundays before church, beginning at 8:30 AM during Lent, our Adult Education Committee will be hosting a series of film presentations and discussions around race relations. We will view half hour installments of the film “Race: The Power of An Illusion” have conversation as we examine a look at what racism is in our country, the systemic institutionalization of racism in our housing, economic systems, education and more: How did it happen? Where are the entry points for change? What might we do to make change and space in all these realms for all people to flourish together moving forward?

Please check out the First Church website and calendar for more details.


If you have a question, please leave it in the comments below. You can also email your question by leaving it in our Contact Form. Thanks for visiting us & please stay tuned for more FAQs and event plans from First Church of Christ Longmeadow.

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