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Doubts about the concept of Ashes to Go

Doubts about the concept of Ashes to Go

Are Ashes To Go really such a great idea? The Rev.Michael Sniffen of The Church of St. Luke and St. Matthew in Brooklyn is not sold:

Before you put on your gear and head out with the Lenten swat team,

can we be real for a moment? I know you are chomping at the bit to “meet people where they are” at your local commuter hub, but please pause with me in the sacristy for just a second.

I was so nervous about offending you that I almost decided not to put this out there, which says plenty about the fragility of my own clerical ego. But I need to be honest with you about how weird this “Ashes to Go” thing is. It’s really quite macabre to impose a sign of mortality and repentance without the freeing experience of ritual repentance or the pronouncement of God’s absolving grace by a priest of the church. I know you prepared a nice post card with Psalm 51 and a forgiveness prayer – but that doesn’t get the job done. Also, I’m wondering if you will be at the same corner on Easter Day to proclaim the Resurrection…but let’s stick with Wednesday for now. It’s hard to make a right beginning of Lent while on your way to Target after work. If one wishes to repent, they might prefer to speak with you privately or offer a prayer of the church in a less hurried manner. Those who can’t make it to scheduled Ash Wednesday liturgies often drop by a local church between services to receive ashes from the parish priest. I have never seen someone turned away.

Read his full post here.


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Jonathan Chesney

C’mon people, the heart of his piece is not just pot-shots at people who like Ashes-to-Go.

It’s a very valid critique on some of our church’s penchant for flashy answers to deeper needs and issues.

I’ve only had good experiences with AtG, but I take this piece to heart. As the author says, if this is the only time we go “to the streets,” then we need to seriously examine motives and how we understand living the Gospel. If you do a lot more with getting out into the world, then perhaps his critique is not aimed at you.

“If you have a robust street ministry, then by all means – ashes should be a part of it. But too many of us in the ashes only category will congratulate ourselves on having participated in a radically welcoming street ministry this Ash Wednesday. What will we really have accomplished in Christ’s name? Who will really have been served?

Why don’t we take our ministry to the streets for real?! Let’s spend more time at the county jail. Let’s join local protests against inhumane corporate practices. Let’s deal with greedy landlords. Let’s go to city council meetings and hold the feet of elected officials to the fire. You know, Jesus stuff. Amos said something about God taking no delight in our solemn assemblies. Let’s be real about the ongoing need for the institutional church to publicly repent of its apathy, survivalism and indifference to human suffering.”

Does he miss touching on some of the amazing ways that the Holy Spirit seems to moving amidst this activity? Sure, perhaps. Like I said, I’m about to head out to my own AtG site in Foggy Bottom, D.C. in a few hours.

But instead of getting defensive, why not listen, be reminded who we are and what we’re about, and consider how AtG might just be a small part of all the other ways we are being called to bear the Gospel into the world.

Ann Fontaine

Just got tired of eating pancakes (they are so dull) and thought “tortillas” are like pancakes and so much yummier filled with taco fillings. Also our church had an orphanage in Mexico that we supported and raised funds at this event.

David Allen

OK, you have me stumped. Being from the birthplace of tacos, I don’t get the Ash Wednesday/Lent connection of tacos?

Hermano David

john merz

I wonder what William Stringfellow would have thought about Ashes to Go and its status as ministry taken to the streets?? My my how far has the bar fallen!

Nonetheless, everyone, pack up the ash kits and get your twitters started.

Sara Miles

Share your experiences (words and/or photos) of Ash Wednesday here:

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