Lessons From Ash Wednesday
"Almighty God, who maketh us to know that dust we are, and to dust we shall return, make us also to know that we are temples of thy holy Spirit, and recipients of thy grace, through Jesus Christ our Lord."
(2) You will have to use your left hand to sweep the hair off many people's foreheads in order to impose the ashes. It is very tender and unexpectedly emotional. If a woman is wearing a wig, be especially gentle.
(3) As in a kiss, most people will not look into your eyes when you impose the ashes. But when they do, don't be afraid to look back. It is powerfully bonding and beautiful.
(4) Really get your thumb into the ashes and smoosh it around a bit, but tap it off before you impose the ashes or you might drop soot in someone's eye.
(5) Take your time. Speak clearly (even if softly) when you give the blessing. Don't just smear at them like you want to get it over with. Really draw that vertical and that horizontal line. Feel free to put your left hand on their shoulder if you need to balance yourself. You can't be touch-phobic and do this with full pastoral presence.
(6) When imposing ashes on a child, step down from the chancel and onto the floor with them to get the best angle.
(7) Be prepared to be a little spooked out when you look out at the congregation for the rest of the service and see all those ashy foreheads. Nothing else says "Hey! We're totally mortal and going to die someday!" quite as obviously as that, and I'd never seen it from the pastor's vantage point before.