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Ashes to Go: how’d it go?

Ashes to Go: how’d it go?

On the Christian Century’s blog, Amy Frykholm muses about Ashes to Go.

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.)


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Lisa Hlass

Thanks to The Rev. Mary Vano, St. Margaret’s, Little Rock, we became active this year with “Ashes to Go” or “Ash Wed. on the go” in the Diocese of Ark. St. Michael’s, Little Rock, set up in a nearby shopping center between Chipotle and Chic-fil-a restaurants (with support from both). Being smack dab in the Bible Belt, we didn’t know what to expect as far as reactions and participation, but we were amazed! 62 people came for ashes and/or a prayer (in the windy but beautiful sunny and 70-something degree weather) between 7:30a and 5:30p. They were young and old; black, white and brown; evangelical, orthodox, and unchurched. They were to the very last person, spiritually hungry and deeply grateful. Grover came from Channel 4 to do a story, but we prayed over him and imposed ashes first (for which he gave deep thanks) [for the story – Generally, lay folk would pray the prayer (that was on the bookmark that we gave those who received) from the BCP, “Almighty God, you have created us out of the dust of the earth: Grant that these ashes may be to us a sign of our mortality and penitence, that we may remember that it is only by your gracious gift that we are given everlasting life; through Jesus Christ our Savior.” A priest (Episcopal or Ecumenical Catholic) would impose the ashes. Word spread like wildfire, by mouth, facebook and email. We had only one sceptic, who eventually received both ashes and a prayer. Many stayed, asked questions, and told their stories. A few who were really on the go didn’t even get out of their vehicles. A couple offered donations. There is no doubt that it was a God-thing and a highly evangelical event for all involved. Thanks be to God!

Jim Pratt

On imposition by laity: back in my university days (my 25th reunion was last year) we did Ash Wednesday jointly with the RCs, and the two chaplains designated a couple students to assist (a practical necessity for a congregation that numbered 200+). There is really nothing particularly priestly about it that would restrict the role to the ordained.

A Facebook User

Here’s a link to a quick round-up of Ashes to Go in the Diocese of Olympia.

Sara Miles

We spent hours on Mission Street, going in taquerias and beauty parlors and restaurants to offer ashes for people who were working…one kitchen worker would tell the others, and they’d all come out to the dining room, or ask me to come back to the kitchen.

We had a lot of very intense conversations, but what stuck with me was how many people said, “I need that” as we imposed ashes.

Bob McCloskey


Re: administration of ashes, as I suspect you are well aware, the BCP Ash Wednesday rite includes in the final rubrics on p. 269, the following: “In the absence of a bishop or priest, all that precedes may be led by a deacon or lay reader.” This begs the question of whether other laity may administer ashes but many clergy, myself included have interpreted it that way indoors as well as out. Thanks for the opportunity for a teachable moment to those who are unaware.

Bob McCloskey

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