Ok, I admit. Sometimes things on the internet bother me. And lately I've been seeing something on the internet that really bothered me. And what makes that interesting is that I've seen the thing that bothered me posted to the internet by a lot of my friends. So this post will almost surely upset some folks. Know that I do it in love and good intentions.
But let's take a moment to talk about Drive-Thru Ashes.
I've seen it from a bunch of folks. It seems to be a particularly commonplace occurrence on college campuses. And I think it comes from a good place, but just the wrong attitude. We as the church are doubling over backwards to make sure that people like us, that we open the doors as wide as we can. Too busy to sit through a half hour worship service? No problem! You are welcomed to come through the line and get "done" faster than a barista can whip up your coffee. Of course we want to welcome as many people as possible. But what are we celebrating when we do this? Are we celebrating the holiday of Ash Wednesday? Or are we celebrating the over-crowded-busy-American lifestyle?
For me at least, if I'm going to celebrate a holiday that claims that I am nothing but dust, and that I am ultimately going to die, I would really rather do that in the community of believers that I call home. I would rather have a brother or sister in Christ around me, bearers of burdens and comforters of truth to remind me that in the midst of all this death there will be new life. I want to sing songs with my brothers and sisters that remind me of the fallenness that surrounds me, pray confessions with those who are in the same boat I am, and hear the good word of Jesus' resurrection proclaimed from the pulpit. All of that for me makes the most sense in a real life, embodied community.
What I don't want is the same level of human interaction I get at McDonalds.
To be fair, Ash Wednesday is not the only place this little pet peeve of mine shows up. The collection of churches that are offering more and more of their weekly worship online is starting to raise flags for me. Church is meant to be the same experience I have when I'm blogging? Or watching Casey Neistat videos? Or whining about politics on Facebook? Perhaps the content is different, more noble, more spiritual. But the whatever the content we are delivering, we have to remember that the experience matters. How people will interact with the message is just as important as the message itself.
Maybe I'm wrong. Maybe your church offered drive through ashes, and has a really solid theological footing for doing so. To me though, gather the body. Get us all together in the same room. Yes, some people will be too busy for it, and that's regrettable. But that's no reason to cheapen the experience. Be careful how people interact with the message, not just discerning how to deliver it to as many eyeballs as possible. Experience matters.
And if you're upset with me, may I beg your forgiveness!