Ash Wednesday services at Belmont University have become an annual tradition, with Bishop of Nashville David Choby joining Todd Lake, the school’s vice president of spiritual development, for the Wednesday service at the former Baptist school.
Bishop Choby said in his sermon that people need physical reminders of spiritual truths, making the customs of Ash Wednesday so powerful, The Tennessean reports. He also told the mostly Protestant audience of hundreds about the custom of making the sign of the cross on his forehead, lips and heart before reading from the Bible.
"I do that as a sign the love of Christ will be in my mind, that the love of Christ will be on my lips, and that the love of Christ will transform my heart," he said.
Attendance at the services may reflect a trend towards liturgical interests among younger evangelicals.
Todd Johnson, professor of worship at the evangelical Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena, California told The Tennessean that such interest is common.
"We have a whole generation of people who are familiar with using symbols," he told The Tennessean. "Kids have grown up using icons on their computers. Symbols mean more to them than words."
Ash Wednesday became more commonly observed after 9/11, Johnson said. The ashes conveyed the loss of life and death in that terrorist attack.
"It's a reminder of your baptism, and time to examine your life," he said. "The ashes used to be a sign of sin. Now they are a sign of our mortality."