Christian students observe Ash Wednesday with non-denominational service


Quinn O'Connor

Ash Wednesday at Emerson.

By Quinn O'Connor and Bailey Allen

The Emerson Christian Fellowship and the Center for Spiritual Life hosted an interdenominational Ash Wednesday service in the Reflection Room of 172 Tremont on Wednesday, allowing Christian students to experience the yearly observance without leaving campus.

Eight attendees sat in a small circle for scripture readings and a litany of penitence. Although the center didn’t have any ashes to distribute, students bonded over their differing Christian observances of the holiday and bowed their heads in prayer.

“Remember what we’re here for,” Emerson College Protestant Chaplain Brian Indrelie said to those gathered. “Lent is supposed to result in some good. Take care of people, lift people up, make ourselves and our world better.”

In the official Church calendar, Lent begins with Ash Wednesday and ends on Holy Thursday evening, spanning forty days. Lent is the season when believers focus on conversion as they prepare for Easter, turning toward God more completely by sacrificing something in their lives.

“I’ve been coming to these meetings, and so I feel like I actually have an established community,” sophomore political communication major Annie Douma said. “I saw a TikTok last year that was like, ‘I love Ash Wednesday because it feels like you’re part of a little secret,’ and it does feel a little like that. You walk down the street, see somebody else with the ashes, and you’re like, ‘I know where you’ve been.’” 

Indrelie, who, outside of Emerson, serves as department chair of biblical and theological studies at Bradford Christian Academy, spoke to the importance of hosting such an event for students who feel their faith is a central part of their lives.

“I know students have said it’s meaningful to have this safe space and to feel like they’re included at Emerson,” he said. “We try to make everyone feel welcome.”

Emerson Christian Fellowship Treasurer Mary Clare Michael said she appreciates the Christian community, even if it is small. To her, those who practice the religion in college are doing it because they want to and not because they have to.

“In high school, church is very much a part of your daily routine, but in college, it’s more of your choice,” Michael said in an interview with the Beacon.

Some event attendees, like Douma, came with ashes on their forehead, having attended Church earlier in the day, while others came to learn more about the celebration of Lent itself.

“This is the time to focus on being a better person,” Idrelie said to the gathered group. “Let’s make our world and ourselves better.”

He instructed students to open the bibles sitting on each chair, and each read aloud a passage—including readings from the books of Genesis, Isaiah, Psalms, and Matthew.

After the service, Douma said Lent has provided an internal sense of belonging to a devoted and practicing community.

“Lent is a very community-focused time and a lot of my spirituality is very personal, and I don’t share it a lot, which is why a lot of people don’t even know I’m religious, but this is one of those things where it’s really nice just to have a community,” Douma said. “It’s so easy to get caught up in everything, so just to take a minute and be mindful is worth a lot.”