Wednesday night was the Ash Wednesday service at Church. Seeing as how it's a Wednesday night, the High School youth go to this service every year. It's always a little stressful for me, standing at the front of the sanctuary leading music all the while watching the youth text, chatter and just in general look very bored. Sigh. Tonight I decided to take a stand on the whole texting thing...no cell phones! And then just relaxed, let them be youth and tried to look at the whole thing from their point of view.
It was fascinating. Looking at the youth that were with me, only two of them had been in any kind of church service before. The Pastor at one point was talking about communion being the body and blood of Christ and then jumped into talking about the ashes and how we come from dust and return to dust. It was then stated that as people left the building they would receive the ashes in a cross on their foreheads and then moved on to something else. One of the young men in front of me turned around and said "Wait, are the ashes human ashes?" Totally legitimate question. No, they aren't human ashes (they are actually palm branches from last Easter).
Communion had no explanations. There was no mention of how to take communion (tearing off a piece of the bread, dipping it into the juice), there was no clarification of how open the table was (believe in Jesus as Lord and Savior, you are welcome to the table), just here's the body and blood of Jesus come and take it. (To be completely transparent, this has been an issue for me for awhile.)
One of the young ladies took her little piece of paper that said "Lord, I confess" on it and was heading to the coals to burn her confession when she stopped me on the way, "Brittany, I drew on this, is that okay?" It was her confession, it was going to burn in the coals but she was concerned that she had done something wrong. I have to say, it made me sad. Not that she drew on the paper or asked the question but that she thought she had done something wrong.
And that's where my eyes were opened the most. There's a lot of talk about wanting younger people to be a part of the church. There's a lot of pressure on bringing in new believers and yet, how user friendly do we make the church? How comfortable do they feel when they walk through the doors? And how relevant is what we are doing inside the doors? What is gained by their sitting in the pews, filling seats, but also lost and confused about what is happening?
I came away with a lot to ponder from Ash Wednesday and, I will admit, some frustration at the church in general...but then, I went into the night with that frustration.