Bishops and “Ashes to Go”

UPDATE: Bishop Rickel’s comments at end of this item.

It’s the bishop edition of Ashes to Go!


Bishop Nick Knisley of Rhode Island had people waiting for him at their Ashes to Go location:

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Additionally, here is a local news report and video from turnto10.com.

Bishop William Franklin and 13 priests from the Diocese of Western New York tried Ashes to Go.

Bishop A. Robert Hirschfeld of New Hampshire wrote on Ashes to Go on the NH Diocese’s new “Church Transfiguration and Expression” page on Facebook:

When I first heard about Ashes to Go a couple years ago, my first

thought was, give me a break! Isn’t the thrust of Ash Wednesday to

call the whole community to repentence, amendment of life, and the

steadfast love of God that recreates us out of the dust? This sounds

like yet another gimmick to boost the numbers on our attendance.

Then I read the story of Jonah preaching to the people of Ninevah, a

population considered beyond his own circle of familiarity; indeed a

whole city of strangers. I read Matthew’s counsel to avoid doing

things just for show of our own personal and private spiritual

gratification. And I begin to consider that perhaps Ash Wednesday and

the season that follows is an invitation to re-define words like

“self,” “parish,” and “community.”

It seems to me that the ashes of Lent remind us that we are created,

out of the dust, in the image of God. The image of God is one of

isolation, alienation, or detachment from creation and humanity.

Rather, being Trinity, God is indeed Community, always reaching out,

inviting in, reaching out again and again, by the action of the Holy

Spirit and in the en-fleshed person of Jesus. Created in that image,

our selves are not just private and isolated, but are constantly

invite out. Likewise, the Church is not defined by the list of

canonically eligible voting members, or the list of “pledging units”

but can be seen as the whole geographical region, the whole web of

human interaction that takes place in a town, a city, a village, or as

they say in some places in the south, a parish.

Ashes to Go is not about inflicting a smudge of dirt on strangers, but

rather witnessing how God invites us to be recreated out of dust to

form a new community of selves who are linked in love, service, mutual

regard, dignity. I saw God when I stood with my sisters in Christ on

the front steps of the Newport, NH Post Office. I saw God’s mission in

action when I witnessed the tenacity of a 94 year old woman get out of

her Ford Focus, decline our invitation to receive ashes, walk up the

steps to the Post Office, and the speak with another neighbor who,

also declining the ashes, spent ten minutes engaged in caring, loving,

dignified conversation about the elderly woman’s health and safety

living alone without the security of a “Live Alert.” They may declined

the ashes, but wow, did we not see God’s glory shine in the midst of

an acknowledgement of human frailty and mortality?

These are the moments of conversion that I, and the whole Church,

stand in continual need of. May such conversions toward God’s ongoing

light and presence be manifold among us this Lent.

Your in Christ,

+ Rob

This is addition to the earlier photos of Bishop Budde in Washington DC.

UPDATE: Bishop Greg Rickel of the Diocese of Olympia (Western Washington) wrote about Ashes.

Category : The Lead

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7 Comments
  1. Excellent! This is exactly what the Church should be doing–do it outside, do it in public, show our stuff!

  2. Bill Dilworth

    I agree with Dr Baber on this. I think the Church ought to be “going walkies,” as someone put it when the my parish hosted the CBS Annual Mass – which included an outdoor procession of the Blessed Sacrament.

    When I first heard about Ashes to Go I was skeptical, but my spending a couple of hours commuting addition to my workday changed that. I can well imagine Christians whose schedules might not allow them to attend Ash Wednesday liturgy but would still like to enter Lent by receiving ashes.

  3. It probably wouldn’t play very well here in coal-country Appalachia. The Pentecostals and hard-shell Baptists already think we’re the Devil’s church. I guess I’m ok with Ashes to Go, as long as there’s at least a little prayer about repentance and Jesus Christ in there too, and hopefully a pamphlet encouraging people to come to church sometime. I’d love to see a wide-ranging study of those who receive ashes at one of these things to find out what they think it’s all about.

  4. Linda Hanson

    Grace St. Paul Episcopal Tucson was on the streets yesterday, including a transit hub. The comment with a picture there: We had many participants, some who wanted prayers, others who wanted just the ashes, and some who wanted to talk theology or spirituality (and a few who just wanted directions). We had one gentleman ask for the service in Spanish, and Nancy translated beautifully. Another man was moved to tears and came back three times to thank us for being there. We heard lots of stories and exchanged hugs, smiles, and blessings with countless people.

  5. We had a number of churches participate in Ashes to Go here in Western Washington. While the bishop was unable to be “out in the street”, he did write a very good blog post about it.

  6. Kit

    ASHES TO GO in the southern corner of the Diocese of Rochester – Corning NY area clergy representing the Episcopal Church, Methodist Church and United Church of Christ participated on Ash Wednesday imposing ashes to many who did not, for a variety of reasons, get to a church service. Clergy of different denominations here often combine energy and talent for projects, so at a recent brown bag lunch we decided to introduce Ashes to Go as an ecumenical service to the community. Beginning at noon ashes and prayer were offered at Centerway Square, the heart of downtown Corning, followed by the Southeast Steuben County Library, Guthrie/Corning Hospital, Guthrie Cancer Center, Absolut Nursing and Rehab Center at Three Rivers, Emeritus Assisted Living at Painted Post, and Colonial Senior Village Painted Post as well as sidewalks and parking lots along the way. Between noon and five pm the clergy imposed ashes, said prayers, and gave blessings to the many who wished to receive them. It was a humbling and joyful experience. Responses of gratitude and hope were overwhelming.

    [Kit – please sign your name when you comment. Thanks ~ed.]

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