I am currently a homeless Christian, a wanderer without a congregation. The reasons for my homelessness are, like most homelessness, complex. Since I have no readily available religious community, I have been worrying endlessly over where and how to receive ashes this coming Wednesday. Every option seems fraught with difficulties and problems. Ashes to Go speaks to me with an innate appeal.
Two years ago, an Episcopal congregation in St. Louis offered Ashes to Go for the first time, and since then the idea has spread rapidly. Last year, 25 congregations offered ashes on the street in Chicago alone, and the offerings are rapidly multiplying at subway stations and bus stops all over the country.
The idea is to bring the church, with its rites and symbols, to the people–not to force anything on them, but because forgiveness, repentance, introspection, a moment of connection and quiet are needed everywhere. Bishop Jeff Lee, of the diocese of Chicago, recalls a woman, who, upon receiving ashes from him said that she never imagined that “the church would come out here to us.”
So, okay. We’re going to slow the pace down a little this morning and see if we can catch clergy (coming back into their offices and checking in on their mobile devices) that have been involved in this movement.
Are you doing Ashes to Go this year? Have you tried it before?
Naïve questions: Was it cold? How long were you on your feet? (Did you wear comfy shoes?) Did you ever feel embarrassed? Did anyone say or do anything mean? Did anyone do or say anything nice? Did anything unexpected or out of the ordinary happen?
More questions: Did it change the way you see Lent? Ash Wednesday? Prayer? Did it help to know there were others doing it at the same time throughout the country?
With about how many folks do you figure you interacted? Did you find yourself saying the same things over and over, or was it more conversational?
How did you encounter God today?
What are these questions missing that you’d like to add?
(If you have blogged about the experience, please feel free to share a link.)