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Ash Wednesday on a psychiatric ward
The Ash Wednesday service in the state psychiatric hospital where I work was hardly an elegant affair. The sterile, brightly lit multipurpose room, with its white plaster walls and tile floor smelling faintly of cleaning solution, hardly qualified as sacred space. An end table covered with a faded purple cloth held a scuffed-up wooden cross and two small containers of ashes; an overhead projector stand served as a lectern. As I came in and sat down, an older hospital employee was playing gospel hymns on a keyboard that had been unpacked for the occasion.


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