Wednesday 9 March, 2011- Ash Wednesday, Year A

Here are the resources you need for Ash Wednesday. Please feel free to choose what is suitable for your congregation’s needs. You will notice that the orders of service are available in different formats: choose the “pdf” format if you want something that is ready to print and photocopy, the “doc” or “rtf” format if you wish to change the formatting yourself or the “ppt” format if you use PowerPoint.


As the name implies, Ash Wednesday is the day on which Christians are marked with the sign of the cross in ashes. This ceremony is optional and, if introduced for the first time, may be preceded with instruction as to its meaning.

The imposition of ashes is a personal reminder of our mortal nature (Genesis 2:7, ‘The Lord God formed man from the dust of the ground’) and of our need to repent and die to sin. Since the ashes are imposed in the sign of the cross, the imposition is also a reminder that Christ became dust and ashes like us, taking on our mortal nature and bearing our sin, so that we might be redeemed. Some people object to the ceremony on the basis of the gospel for the day (‘Some disfigure their faces . . . but when you fast, wash your face’) but imposition of ashes is not intended to be a public sign to others of our piety.

The ashes are prepared by burning dry leaves and, when the ashes are cool, passing them through a sieve to produce a fine powder. Traditionally, the ashes come from the leaves of the branches used at the procession with palms on Palm Sunday of the previous year.

The ashes are placed in a small bowl about two inches across. The bowl should comfortably sit in the palm of the left hand, leaving the right hand free to apply the ashes. Before the Ash Wednesday service begins, the bowl of ashes is placed on a side table or on the corner of the altar ready for use.

If the imposition of ashes is used in the service, the rite takes place after the sermon. This is to enable the sermon to serve as a call to repentance. It also enables the minister/leader to explain the rite during the sermon if the imposition of ashes is new to the congregation’s experience.

The text of the rite can be found in the service orders below. The responses (from the funeral service) are said. During the final collect, the minister/leader may touch the bowl of ashes, or make the sign of the cross over them, to indicate the ashes referred to in the prayer. The minister/leader then asks the worshippers to come forward (if they wish) and receive the imposition. Children also may be encouraged to participate. The worshippers may approach the altar as for continuous communion, or they may simply come forward in single file. The minister/leader (with the help of an assistant if the congregation is large) imposes the ashes by rubbing some of the ash between his thumb and forefinger of his right hand and then, with his thumb (using the other fingers of his hand to brush aside hair etc) he marks the forehead of the worshippers with a small cross.

The minister/leader will say:  Remember that you are dust, and that to dust you shall return. It is essential to address each worshipper individually. Having received the ashes, the worshipper returns to his or her place. After all who wish to have received the ashes, either the minister/leader marks himself with the ashes, or this may be done by his assistant. A period of silence may be observed, and then the service continues with the prayers.

  • Altar colour: Violet
  • Bible readings:
    FIRST READING Joel 2:1,2,12-17 A call to repentance
    or Isaiah 58:1-12 A fast acceptable to the Lord
    PSALM Psalm 51:1-17
    SECOND READING 2 Corinthians 5:20b- 6:10 Be reconciled to God
    GOSPEL Matthew 6:1-6, 16-21 Giving to the poor, praying , and fasting
  • Sermons:
    Lay-readers please note: the linked sermons have not been edited for general use. As part of your preparations, keep in mind that they have been written for specific people in a specific context, and for this reason the issues they address or the examples they use may not be entirely suitable for people in your congregation. If you feel this is the case, you may need to make minor adjustments or find another sermon
    Based on Joel reading: Pr Tim Stringer ; Pr Roger Atze
    Based on 2 Corinthians  reading: Edited for lay reading doc
  • Orders of service:
    Ash Wednesday Word and Prayer ( pdf / doc / ppt )
  • Prayer of the Day (Collect): Included in the above service orders
  • Prayer of the Church/ General Prayer:Included in the service orders or use one of the following: Ash Wednesday A ; Responsive prayer
  • NEW! Link to site with visual images for the day: His Word in Pictures
  • Song/Hymn suggestions: * =  Modernised version available (please click here) ;G3, G4 . . . =  Guitar chords available in the Music Package 3, 4 . . .; GS =  Guitar chords in the Supplement to LH
    First reading (a): Joel 2:1,2,12-17

    192    Bowed low in supplication
    256    Not to us, O Lord, the glory G9
    302    Sinners, turn: why will you die? G7
    304    Delay not, delay not, O sinner, draw near G7
    309    Ah, Lord and God G5
    310    Out of the depths I cry to Thee* (alt tune 404, G9)
    313    With broken heart and contrite sigh
    316    Smite me not, O mighty God G4
    401    When in the hour of utmost need G3
    485    The day is surely drawing near* G5
    488    That day of wrath, that dreadful day
    850    O Father, my Father, I call on your name GS
    6    O Father, my Father
    11    Lord, have mercy
    238    Kyrie 1 (Taize)
    269    Create in us
    327    Sorry
    331    Turn to me with all your heart
    332    We are sorry
    354    Change my heart, O God
    379    Kyrie eleison (Ghana)
    392    Kyrie eleison (Russia)
    398    A child of God
    446    Mercy
    81    Out of the depths I cry to you
    463    May this Lenten discipline
    577    Come, let us to the Lord our God
    712    Create in us
    739    Kyrie eleison (Ghana)
    735    Kyrie (Taize)
    736    Kyrie eleison (Ukranian)

    First reading (b): Isaiah 58:1-12

    356    Lord of glory, who hast bought us* G3
    380    O God of mercy, God of might G9
    815    O Christ, the healer, we have come G6
    816    O Fount of good, for all your love G7
    817    O Jesus Christ, to you may hymns be rising G7
    819    Wake, O Lord, to human need G9
    820    We thank you, God, for eyes to see GS
    850    O Father, my Father, I call on your name GS
    855    Brother, let me be your servant
    858    Make me a channel (see AT for guitar chords in E)
    6    O Father, my Father, I call on your name
    95    Make me a channel of your peace
    191    The servant song
    300    Practise love
    301    Prayer of peace
    308    We are called to follow Jesus
    310    Yesu, Yesu, fill us with your love
    354    Change my heart, O God
    357    Give us hearts to know you, Lord
    373    Bound by love
    377    Heal me
    390    Put on love
    397    These I lay down
    398    A child of God
    402    God has chosen me
    414    Take this moment
    607    Make me a channel of your peace
    618    What does the Lord require
    620    O Jesus Christ, may grateful hymns be rising
    638    O Christ, the healer, we have come
    640    Kneels at the feet of his friends
    650    Brother, sister, let me serve you
    657    God of freedom, God of justice
    690    Beauty for brokenness

    Second reading: 2 Corinthians 5:20b – 6:10

    48    Lamb of God most holy* G5
    52    O sacred head, now wounded* G6
    55 (pt 1)    O dearest Jesus, what law hast Thou broken* G4
    57 (pt l)    A Lamb goes uncomplaining forth* G5
    58 (pt 1)    O world, see thy Life languish* G3
    59    Jesus, I will ponder now* G8
    60    Christ, the life of all the living G5
    70    Stricken, smitten, and afflicted* G3
    196    Look down, O Lord, from heaven behold
    198    Let us, O Father, never be confounded G6
    200    Thou little flock, be not dismayed
    305    Today Thy mercy calls us* G3
    331    My hope is built on nothing less* G5
    361    Let us ever walk with Jesus* G5
    407    If thou but suffer God to guide thee* G6
    857    Low, the way is low GS
    862    As we step from the edge of morning GS
    22    He was wounded
    84    I want Jesus to walk with me
    101    Jesus, please watch over us
    185    Jesus, Son of God and man
    190    The way is low
    215    My hiding place
    219    Then I will praise you, my Saviour, again
    235    In your hand, my Saviour
    261    The Servant King
    275    In our darkness
    278    Lord, hear our prayer
    281    Nothing can separate us from the love of God
    310    Yesu, Yesu, fill us with your love
    348    Sing hey for the carpenter
    358    Gift to the world
    372    Teach me your way
    384    If we will trust in God to guide us
    399    Holding out your hand
    401    Follow me
    439    Forgiven
    219    Jesus comes with all his grace
    256    From heaven you came, helpless babe
    259    Among us and before us, Lord, you stand
    337    O dearest Jesus, why aren’t you acquitted
    338    See, world, your life suspended
    339    O sacred head sore wounded
    554    If we will trust in God to guide us
    640    Kneels at the feet of his friends
    693    Come as you are

    Gospel: Matthew 6:1-6, 16-21

    119    Come down, O Love divine G9
    132    Spirit of wisdom, turn our eyes (alt tune 245, G6)
    149    Jesus, priceless treasure* G3
    150    King of glory, now before Thee G6
    153    One thing needful: this one treasure G9
    178    Dearest Saviour, hear my promise G3
    756    O Lord, throughout these forty days G5
    757    On my heart imprint your image
    788    Lord, who left the highest heaven G8
    789    My Lord, you wore no royal crown G6
    848    With deep humility, O Lord G5 (holy communion)
    849    With holy joy my heart shall beat (alt tune 839, G7) (holy communion)
    899    O Lord, hear my prayer
    34    Seek ye first
    199    I know where I’m going
    274    In Jesus’ name
    282    O Lord, hear my prayer
    397    These I lay down (holy communion)
    413    The summons
    398    Come down, O Love divine
    476    As a chalice cast of gold
    741    O Lord, hear my prayer
    745    Seek ye first the kingdom of God

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