The View from the Sacristy: from Palms to Ashes

February 18, 2015 Comments Off on The View from the Sacristy: from Palms to Ashes

10599535_787681051297641_4450337035165703337_nIt was only a few years ago that we started burning the palms on Shrove Tuesday instead of purchasing ready-to-go ashes.  I’m not exactly sure why it happened, but it seemed like a good idea and a liturgical way to recycle the palm left over from the previous year’s Palm Sunday.  We used a brand-new metal garbage can from Home Depot and burned the palm at the floor of the amphitheater behind the church. It was a chilly Tuesday evening and the service began with everyone gathered around on the theater steps. We discovered that even though the palm had been sitting around the sacristy for months and was very dry, they just didn’t want to catch fire. Eventually we had a smoldering smokey fire that took forever to burn. We took notes to plan for the following year. That next year we prepared the palm by adding some lighter fluid to the metal can on some paper.  The way the winds blew caused the flame from the can to shoot up into the air which caused some concern among the attendees, especially the clergy who were very close to the flames. (The good thing is that eyebrows and lashes will grow back after a certain amount of time.) The next year we moved the burning to just outside the school gate next to Laughlin Hall. A new shorter metal tub was purchased from Home Depot so flames would not shoot up and, without the updraft of the winds, the palm burned without much trouble. We still used lighter fluid, but more sparingly, but this meant we couldn’t use those ashes because they had lighter fluid in them.  After many years of trial and error we discovered that the palm will burn well in a hot fire, so now we use a piece of untreated cotton which catches fire easily and gets hot enough to cause the palm to burn. Watch this space for our secret to kindling the perfect “new fire” at the Easter vigil!

– Sean Scheller

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