You are most likely familiar with the children’s rhyme and game “Ring Around the Rosie” with the final line being the title of this article. One would never think this might apply to an Episcopal priest, but stranger things have happened!
On Ash Wednesday, the priest (Fr. Geoffrey Wild) and I were sitting in our allergist’s office waiting for our injections. An elderly friend and his daughter walked in and sat with us. The friend asked me if my husband would be distributing ashes at a service that day, and I told him he would be. The friend said he didn’t know if he could make it out to the church. The priest-husband offered to get the ashes out of the car and impose them in the allergist’s office. The friend then asked if his wife could be given ashes – oh, and, by the way, she was in the emergency room of the hospital in the same building as the allergist’s office. Geoffrey said he would be happy to do so, so we departed and went to the ER to see our friend’s wife.
I work in Mercer, PA, and Geoffrey drove me to work. He then went to a local nursing home to see one of our congregation members and impose ashes for her. She picked up the phone and called the charge nurse to let her know that Geoffrey was there. After he imposed ashes on the lady and her daughter, he turned around to find a line of folks of “all sorts and conditions” waiting to receive ashes, which he then imposed. The charge nurse told Geoffrey that there was a Roman Catholic priest who would appreciate ashes but who was unable to leave his bed. Geoffrey went to the man’s bedside and imposed ashes for the Catholic priest.
Next Geoffrey drove to Foxburg where he imposed ashes in the church there. Quite a bit of snow and ice were around that day, and Geoffrey slipped and fell on the sidewalk that leads from the church to the parish house. He brushed himself off and continued on his way.
His final stop of the day was at Church of the Epiphany where he held a Eucharist with, of course, imposition of ashes. Following the service, he joined my daughter and me for dinner at a local restaurant. As we were finishing the meal, he said to me, “I think I need to go to the ER!” I thought he was most likely in atrial fibrillation again – but no! He thought he had broken his wrist in the Foxburg fall!
We sat in the ER (where Geoffrey had visited our friend’s wife earlier in the day) Following x-rays, we learned that his wrist was severely sprained but not broken. He received pain medication and a wrist wrap, and we were finally on our way home at 11:00 pm. At that point, he was in a great deal of pain. Strangely, he said, the pain did not start until we finished dinner and he had completed his priestly duties for the day! His wrist continues to be black and blue from that fall!
We marveled at how this day unfolded as he traveled from place to place, doing God’s work. We laughed about the big line up of people at the nursing home and the Catholic priest receiving ashes from an Episcopal priest. Most of all, we thanked God for the many opportunities he gives us for ministry. Geoffrey will forever remember this day, a day when “Ashes, ashes, we all fall down” became very real for him.
Cheryl Wild attends both Epiphany in Grove City and Memorial Church of Our Father in Foxburg, where her husband, Geoffrey, serves as vicar. She is also a member of the diocese’s Commission on Ministry.