In the quiet sanctuary of St. Paul's Episcopal Church, parishioners congregated to observe Ash Wednesday that took place in three separate services Wednesday.
Ash Wednesday is a time of penitence for Christians, symbolized by the smearing of ashes on the forehead. It is observed at the beginning of Lent, the 40 days of fasting and spiritual reflection before Easter.
The observance began in the 7th century as a six-week period of penitence and fasting that recalls Moses' 40 years in the wilderness and Jesus' 40 days in the wilderness at the beginning of his earthly ministry, says the Rev. Rob Lundquist, St. Paul's priest.
"Many will choose to take on a discipline during the six and a half weeks of Lent," said Lundquist. "For some it will be a fast-a giving up of something as a reminder of Jesus' trials during the last days of his earthly ministry. Others will take on something new such as increasing acts of charity, service, prayer or reading."
"Without God," Lundquist says, "our lives are no more than dust and ash. We face that fact as we turn our attention to Jesus' journey to the cross."
For Fort Collins resident, Betsy Kelly, Ash Wednesday symbolizes hope.
"It begins the anticipation leading up to the risen Christ," Kelly, 41, said.
Without Christ, Kelly said she would have no hope. "I wouldn't be here –literally," she said. "I would be dead."
For CSU sophomore Meg Hollowed, Ash Wednesday represents a special time of spiritual renewal.
"It's an opportunity to talk to God and be close to him," said Hollowed, an environmental engineering major. "And to be forgiven of sins."