Since yesterday was Shrove Tuesday, that means today is Ash Wednesday. Many Christians will attend gatherings, large or small, where they will be marked on the forehead in the sign of the cross with ash (often made from the burnt remains of last year’s Palm Sunday crosses).
I noticed a story on the BBC site about a church in Ireland which is planning to offer a drive-through service. I’m not sure whether they have to get out of the car to receive their ash marking but they certainly are invited to turn up whenever is convenient rather than when the community is gathered. I have to admit that, on first reading, that struck me as ludicrous. The church is, from a biblical point of view, emphatically not about rituals. There are rituals but these games facilitate the gathering of the community. Through Christian community, we find support to persevere and company in both sorrow and joy.
On the other hand, while I think there are times the church needs to resist rather than pander to our society’s restless busy-making, perhaps I’m being too harsh. I’m not sure how spread out the congregation served by the church is but an ash cross is a temporarily visible sign of belonging to a wider community.