I am not making this up. I regularly get emails to this site in the style of, “we tried using ashes for Ash Wednesday last year. Do you have a suggestion for something different we could try on Ash Wednesday this year?”
Liturgy, IMO, functions by repetition. By moving into Depth. We don’t call it “by heart” for nothing.
Come to think of it, that’s how all deep human realities function. “I told my wife last year I love her – I’ve done that…”. We raised the flag to half mast last time there was a national tragedy – can’t we do something different this time? We gave out medals at the last Olympics – this time we are doing something quite different. But we sang the National Anthem last ANZAC Day. We sang you “Happy Birthday” on your last birthday! But I said “Good morning” to you last month.
What is wrong with the church that it fails to understand such a basic human dynamic? Why this addiction to incessant novelty? The sin of incessant variety, of distracting ourselves to death; succumbing to the seduction of the relentlessly different. Rather than believing in the integrity of what we offer – and learning and practising to offer it well – there is a paranoia about decreasing attendance numbers and the assumption that abandoning our human need for Depth (the very thing that church should be expert at!) will somehow attract another generation, including to help preserve our pretty buildings while what occurs in them bears little continuity with the tradition (for which they were built).
If you used ashes for Ash Wednesday this year – how about just trying it again next year? If you celebrated the resurrection this year – how about just trying it again next year?