Ash Wednesday: Not just a Catholic holiday

Heather Scarlett

Members of the United Methodist Church of Kent receive ashes on their forehead during the Ash Wednesday ceremony. The ashes are in the sign of a cross and are meant to symbolize repentence and forgiveness of sins.

Credit: Tara Raftovich

What for years has been a tradition associated with Catholicism was performed last night at the United Methodist Church in Kent.

A group of about 100 to 125 church members gathered to celebrate the Ash Wednesday service in Protestant style and receive the symbol of ashes in the sign of the cross on their foreheads.

Maggie Heidenreich, sophomore nursing major, said the Ash Wednesday service is celebrated as a start to the Lent and Easter holidays.

Church members came forward and knelt at the communion altar as altar boys assisted the Revs. David Palmer and Douglas Denton in putting ashes on the foreheads of those in attendance.

“The ashes represent us coming into a new light with Jesus,” Heidenreich said. “We, as Christians, want to remember that Jesus died for us.”

Palmer said the history of placing ashes on the forehead lies in the first and last books of the Bible.

In Genesis, Cain killed his brother Abel, and for protection God placed a mark on Cain’s forehead, Palmer said. In Revelations there is another passage that says Christians will receive the “mark of Christ” on their foreheads.

Palmer said there is nothing specifically Catholic about Ash Wednesday, and it is a part of a common Christian heritage.

Heidenreich, who is a Methodist, celebrates Lent every year although she said Protestants observe it differently than Catholics.

“Being Protestant, we don’t do all the original practices that Catholics do,” she said. “They are old school. Catholics are more traditional and straight from the Bible.”

Although Catholic practices may be more traditional, the ashes have a profound meaning for both denominations.

“It is a very direct expression of forgiveness,” Palmer said, “You see it; you feel it. It is very participatory.”

Contact religion reporter Heather Scarlett at [email protected].