Ashes Ready for Ash Wednesday

A Tradition Renewed: Ash Wednesday 2022

Ash Wednesday, which marks the start of the penitential season of Lent on the Christian calendar, is always a significant day at Trinity Church Wall Street.

This year’s observance on March 2 will be particularly historic.

The Rt Rev. William Manning, Trinity's tenth Rector and Later Bishop of New York
The Rt. Rev. William Manning, Rector of Trinity Church Wall Street and Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of New York

One hundred years ago, on Ash Wednesday 1922 (March 1 of that year), the Rt. Rev. William Manning, Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of New York, came to Trinity to preach. That appearance was a homecoming of sorts for Manning, who had previously served for 13 years as Trinity’s Tenth Rector and had been consecrated as Bishop just ten months earlier. Thus began a tradition that will be renewed when Bishop Andrew Dietsche comes to Trinity to preach and serve as Celebrant at the Ash Wednesday 12:05pm midday Holy Eucharist. 

Bishop Andrew Dietsche
The Rt. Rev. Andrew ML Dietsche, Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of New York

The imposition of ashes on the foreheads of the faithful is the iconic image of Ash Wednesday, a commemoration which is a reminder of mortality and annually includes the recitation of the Invitation to the Observance of a Holy Lent.  

As the Rev. Matthew Welsch preached in the 8am Ash Wednesday sermon: “Today is Ash Wednesday and we have gathered at another threshold to pray, to repent, and to remind one another of a truth we are biologically hard-wired to resist with every fiber of our being, that each of us will die, we are mortal.”

The traditions of Ash Wednesday are arguably the most publicly visible of all Christian practice as construction workers, office staff, and even students can be seen on the street, their foreheads marked with the smudge of ash.

Imposition is also a deeply personal and physical event, two persons face-to-face, their bodies just a few inches from each other, with the human touch of one's finger placing the sign of the cross on the forehead of another. Until now, this ancient rite of the Church has been impossible to perform safely during the pandemic.

Imposition of Ashes on Ash Wednesday March 2, 2022
Photo by Leo Sorel

So the imposition of ashes during the 8am Ash Wednesday service at Trinity (photo above) represents a return to tradition, renewed for the first time since February 26, 2020, a time when most of the world was becoming familiar for the first time with the terms novel coronavirus and social distancing, and just days before the declaration of the pandemic. 

Trinity Church Wall Street offers two services on Ash Wednesday March 2: the Liturgy of Ash Wednesday, at 8am with the Litany of Penitence and Imposition of Ashes and then, at 12:05pm, the Liturgy of Ash Wednesday, with Holy Communion, the Litany of Penitence, the Imposition of Ashes, hymns and music by The Choir of Trinity Wall Street, and a sermon by the Rt. Rev. Andrew ML Dietsche, Bishop of New York.  Both services will be live-streamed and the 12:05pm Holy Eucharist will also be available on Facebook Live at