Ash Wednesday is the first day of Lent, and starts the seventh week before Easter. The day is named for the practice of imposing ashes, a practice that many Lutheran congregations have found to be a very meaningful part of the Ash Wednesday liturgy.
It is one of the most solemn days of the church year. This observance marks the beginning of a penitential discipline, taking place during the 40-day season of Lent, climaxing on Maundy Thursday. The mood is penitential and reflective on our baptismal faith and life.
Worshipers on Ash Wednesday will have the opportunity to receive ashes on their foreheads as a sign of penitence and baptismal remembrance. The ashes are prepared by burning palm branches from last Palm Sunday. The words spoken as ashes are imposing, “Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return,” were first spoken to Adam after his fall into sin, and will be spoken again... for every one of us... as part of our funeral service.
The organ is silent before and after worship. Worshipers are asked to keep reverent silence before the service and leave the service in silence. There will be no greeting at the door by the pastor.
For more information, you can download an Ash Wednesday "Frequently Asked Questions" (FAQ) sheet from the ELCA:
"Why and How do we use Ashes on Ash Wednesday" [Adobe/.pdf format]