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Ash Wednesday

Ash Wednesday – A Service for the Beginning of Lent

This service is for Ash Wednesday. Where, because of particular circumstances, Ash Wednesday cannot be celebrated, this service may be used on the First Sunday in Lent. If ashes are used, they may be made from the palms of the previous Palm Sunday. These are often difficult to burn – two minutes in a microwave (or the equivalent in a conventional oven) dries out the palms and helps them to burn well.

All standing, the service begins with the following or another greeting.

Grace and peace to you from God.
God fill you with truth and joy.

Let us (remain standing as we) pray (in silence) for grace to keep Lent faithfully.


Almighty and merciful God,
you hate nothing that you have made
and forgive the sins of all who are penitent;
create in us new and contrite hearts,
so that when we turn to you and confess our sins
we may receive your full and perfect forgiveness;
through Jesus Christ our Redeemer
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God now and for ever. Amen.                   (page 573)

The congregation sits

The Proclamation

(Readings: NZPB page 574 or page 696)

Or the following:

Joel 2:1-2,12-17 or Isaiah 58:1-12

2 Corinthians 5:20b-6:10

Matthew 6:1-6,16-21           (Revised Common Lectionary)

Psalm 51:1-17 (page 256f.) is used after the first reading. “Create in me a clean heart, O God.” may be used by the congregation as a refrain after verse 2, 4a, 5, 7, 9, 11, 13, 15, and 17.

Or Psalm 51:1-4a, 10-12, 15 as follows:

Refrain: Create in me a clean heart, O God.

Have mercy on me O God in your great kindness:
in the fullness of your mercy blot out my offences.
Wash away all my guilt:
and cleanse me from my sin.

Create in me a clean heart, O God.

For I acknowledge my faults:
and my sin is always before me.
Against you only have I sinned
and done evil in your sight.

Create in me a clean heart, O God.

Create in me a clean heart O God:
and renew a right spirit within me.
Do not cast me away from your presence:
do not take your holy spirit from me.

Create in me a clean heart, O God.

Give me the joy of your help again:
and strengthen me with a willing spirit.
O Lord open my lips:
and my mouth shall proclaim your praise.

Create in me a clean heart, O God.          (page 256f.)

The Sermon may include an explanation of Lent and an invitation to keep it faithfully. Then all may stand. The presider may say these or other suitable words.

E te whanau a te Karaiti/ Dear friends in Christ, every year we celebrate Christ’s death and resurrection. Lent is a time to prepare for this celebration.  In order that our Lent may be a time of renewal and growth we begin this season by remembering our need for repentance and for the forgiveness of God proclaimed by Jesus Christ.

I invite you, therefore, in the name of Christ, to observe a holy Lent by self-examination and repentance, by prayer, fasting, self?]denial, and giving to those in need, and by reading and meditating on the word of God.

Let us kneel and in silence call to mind our sin and the infinite mercy of God.


Either the Ten Commandments (page 521), with the response after each commandment, or the following litany of penitence may be used.

We have not loved you with all our heart, and soul, and mind, and strength.
We have not loved our neighbours as ourselves.
We have not forgiven others as we have been forgiven.

Lord have mercy.
Lord have mercy.

We have been deaf to your call to serve.
We have been unfaithful, proud, and hypocritical.

Christ have mercy.
Christ have mercy.

We have been self-centered, and have taken advantage of others.

Lord have mercy.
Lord have mercy.

We have been envious of those more fortunate than ourselves.

Christ have mercy.
Christ have mercy.

We have loved worldly goods and comforts too much.
We have been dishonest in daily life and work.

Lord have mercy.
Lord have mercy.

We have neglected prayer and worship, and have failed to commend the faith that is in us.

Christ have mercy.
Christ have mercy.

We have been blind to human need and suffering, and indifferent to injustice and cruelty.

Lord have mercy.
Lord have mercy.

We have thought uncharitably about others, and we have been prejudiced towards those who differ from us.

Christ have mercy.
Christ have mercy.

We have wasted and polluted your creation, and lacked concern for those who come after us.

Lord have mercy.
Lord have mercy.

Then the presider and people say together the following or another confession.

Merciful God,
we have sinned
in what we have thought and said,
in the wrong we have done
and in the good we have not done.
We have sinned in ignorance:
we have sinned in weakness:
we have sinned through our own deliberate fault.
We are truly sorry.
We repent and turn to you.
Forgive us, for our Saviour Christ’s sake,
and renew our lives to the glory of your name. Amen. 
   (page 407)

If the imposition of ashes is to follow, the presider says,

Let us pray.

[silent prayer]

Loving God,
you create us from the dust of the earth;
may these ashes be for us a sign
of our penitence and our mortality,
and a reminder that only by the cross
do we receive eternal life
in Jesus Christ our Saviour. Amen.

Those who desire to receive ashes come forward. The ashes are imposed on each person with any of the following or other suitable words. Two sentences may be used together, or imposition may be in silence.

Remember you are dust, and to dust you shall return.
Turn away from sin and be faithful to Christ.
Repent and believe the Good News: God longs for you to be whole.

Or ashes may be distributed in a question and answer form.

Will you turn away from sin and be faithful to Christ? I will.

During this time a psalm, hymn, or anthem may be used.

This penitential part of the service may be concluded by the presider declaring the Absolution:

Through the cross of Christ,
God have mercy on you,
pardon you and set you free.
Know that you are forgiven
and be at peace.
God strengthen you in all goodness
and keep you in life eternal.
Amen.                                   (page 408)

The Prayers of the People may follow.

The Eucharist continues at the Peace.

Variation/Addition to the Great Thanksgiving: Lent.

Instead of the confession above, the presider can invite any who wish, to write on a slip of paper something for which they seek God’s forgiveness and healing. The papers are collected and burnt as a symbol of God’s forgiveness. A suitable, simple anthem or chant, for example from Taiz√©, may be used at this time.

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