Ash Wednesday – service at St. John’s. Ashes on the forehead, a perfect cross.
As you leave church and go through the day, you forget that you have this imprint for all to see. I had an errand later that afternoon. As I spoke to the shopkeeper, she commented on the ashes. She asked where I got them. “My church, St. John’s, the yellow church across from the White House. It is Episcopal,” I said.
She then opened up about her religious studies. She had studied Sufism, Hinduism, Buddhism, and other practices such as the Kabbalah. She had obviously learned a lot, but she found something in each religion that left her with questions. She asked me about the principles of being Episcopal. Being grateful at that moment for St. John’s Inquirers’ Class, I responded that it is like a three-legged stool, based on scripture, tradition, and reason (She could relate to reason). I did not go much further, because I really wanted to listen to her. She said she found herself, after all of this exploration, being drawn back to her Catholic roots.
I marveled that she had opened up to me because I wore the Lenten ashes on my forehead. Did it send an unspoken message that I was a person who practiced my faith? Did it give her the opportunity to talk about her own spiritual search?
I came away thinking about the experience of two strangers connecting and conversing about finding meaning in their practice of faith. I could appreciate that she had explored other religions, as there is so much good, and commonality in them all. And I am grateful that I have found my church home of faith and community, and the teachings of Jesus which guide my life.