26 February, 2009

Church Smells Funny

It's Sooty Thursday (the day after Ash Wednesday, natch...) and our church smells funny. Angela Marie (my esteemed colleague) says it smells suspicious, which is a better description. What it smells like is pot.

As a pastor, my usual Ash Wednesday routine includes making the ashes. Following semi-ancient Church tradition, we save the palm fronds from the previous Palm Sunday and burn them for Ash Wednesday. The last few years, this has been a challenge - it's taken lots of patience and no few matches to get the suckers to burn down enough to use. You don't want chunky ashes.

"This year," thinks I to myself, "I'll figure something out."

So, facing my challenge squarely, I realized that lighting the palms outside is part of the problem - too windy. And palms don't seem to naturally want to burn, so an accelerant (as they call them on those CSI shows) would probably be in order.

So, I gathered the palms, found a large pot in the church kitchen and whipped out the lighter fluid I had brought from home. Now, momma didn't raise no fool, so I used only a small squeeze of the lighter fluid. And I decided that if I was going to play with fire inside, I should be near the kitchen sink, should things get out of hand.

Thus properly prepared, I lit the palm fronds.

Well, apparently I either used more lighter fluid than I meant to, or this year's palm fronds were especially apt to burn. When I touched the lighter to the palms, I got flames. Large flames. KISS-stage-show-pyrotechnics kind of flames.

And smoke.

And as the flames subsided, things got smokier. And stinkier.

I turned on the kitchen exhaust fan and closed all the doors to the kitchen, hoping to contain the trouble. After a few minutes, I realized that I was having a hard time seeing. Our church kitchen looked (and smelled) like a sight gag from a Cheech and Chong movie.*

I left the kitchen, opened the doors of the fellowship hall and hoped for the best. By the time our Lenten soup supper started about 5 hours later, it still smelled like Michael Phelps and 50 of his closest friends had been partying in the church basement.

So, we gathered in the sanctuary, praying for repentance and forgiveness, marked our foreheads with slightly stinky ashes (since recovered from the very stinky kitchen) and began another Lenten journey. And then everyone went home smelling like they'd just come back from Lollapalooza.

I love working in the church sometimes.

much peace, much love, etc.

*For the record, I've never seen a Cheech and Chong movie, although I passed by one on Comedy Central the other day. I think the 30 seconds that I saw probably let me on to the bulk of Cheech and Chong's cinematic comedy-adventures.

And also for the record, I've never smoked dope. Cigars, (tobacco) pipes and even a cigarette once, but ix-nay on the onic-chray. I'm sayng this because (1) it's true and (2) my momma reads my blog. And (3) my Bishop might... So I just wanted to be clear. But I went to college, so I know what it smells like.


  1. OK, everybody I know thinks it smells like ... pot. Including me. But how is it that so many stinking pastors can know that palm fronds smell like pot? I know how it is for me: EVERY concert I attended when I was growing up was attended by a MILLION potheads. And every one of them was toking it up AS SOON as the lights went down. How is it that the smell could start at the speed of light?

    Anyway, I'm thinking I'm gonna find me a pothead sometime and have him smoke a palm frond cigarette. Just to see.

  2. If my memory is not fading to rapidly, I think you were a tad of a "pyro" in your younger days..Great post nevertheless..
    Dad & FIL

  3. SWEET- I'm famous!! When you get discovered and millions of people pay big bucks to come hear you talk, I will be expecting a royalty.
    Angela Marie

  4. next year try burning the palms outside in a pot --sneaky jesus loves that smell!