Easter renewal of baptism
Submitted by Greg Bostrom, co-pastor, Wildwood Presbyterian Church, Grayslake, Illinois
On Ash Wednesday, Wildwood Presbyterian Church (Grayslake, Illinois) participates in the ancient practice of imposing ashes as a sign of repentance and mortality.
On the first communion Sunday after Easter (or on Easter itself), the congregation celebrates the renewal of baptism. As the people come forward for the bread and cup, first they are met by the pastors (or members), calling them by name: "George, you have new life in Christ." The sign of the cross is made in water on the forehead, in the same place that was smudged with ashes just a few weeks before. The connection between ashes, the sign of death, and water, the sign of life, is made in the liturgy both on Ash Wednesday and during Easter communion.
In the course of that liturgy, we often say that one of the most difficult acts of ministry is to look into the face of those we love on Ash Wednesday, call them by name, and remind them of the day they will live no longer. We can only bring ourselves to do so in the sure and certain hope of resurrection to eternal life, a hope that we celebrate, one by one, with the waters of baptism during that Easter communion.