Ashes join Lutheran chaplain and Catholic priest on holy day
The Rev. Jennifer Owen, the chaplain at Friendship Haven, is Lutheran.
The Rev. Jim Tigges, a resident there, is a retired Catholic priest.
That didn’t matter Wednesday.
Each spoke the same words to each worshipper as they made a cross of ashes on their forehead: “Remember you are dust and to dust you shall return.”
The pair work together to serve the spiritual needs of the residents. They help each other out. It’s a relationship that extends through the whole year, not just during a joint service on Ash Wednesday.
“If I’m on vacation,” Owen said. “Then Father Jim is available. It’s a good working relationship.”
They both have an excellent sense of humor.
“I have an Emergency Dial A Priest on my phone,” she said.
Ash Wednesday begins the Lent season.
“It represents for a lot of people a time to begin again,” she said. “Prayer, fasting and alms. It’s an opportunity to renew the journey with Christ. At the end, your relationship with Christ is a little stronger.”
It’s also a reminder that each person is mortal.
“As I’m doing ashes,” she said. “There are several people that won’t be here. We are very aware of our mortality.”
That’s very real for Tigges, too.
“I wonder,” he said. “Where I will be next year?”
The season of Lent, and the scripture behind it, transcends any difference between Protestant and Catholic.
“You’ll hear the same lessons,” Owen said. “Psalms 51, the ashes.”
The ashes are traditionally burnt palms.
“They are leftover palms from last year’s Palm Sunday service,” she said.
They are available commercially, but once upon many Sundays ago, Tigges got to produce them himself.
“Forty-nine years ago the pastor made me burn palms,” he said.
While the regular services and Mass will continue at Friendship Haven during the Lent season, both are hoping to see a repeat of last year’s Good Friday service.
“We had a carrying of the cross,” Tigges said.
About 120 worshippers attended the service. The Friendship Haven Bell Choir and the Friendship Haven Chorus both performed.
Owen closed the service with a poem by Rabindranath Tagore.
In part, it reads.
“I was given life, that I might enjoy all things. I got nothing I asked for — but everything I hoped for, almost despite myself, my unspoken prayers were answered. I am among men, most richly blessed.”