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Gearing up for Ashes to Go

Gearing up for Ashes to Go

The Diocese of Chicago will once again offer Ashes to Go, the exceedingly popular, and at least slightly controversial initiative in which congregations take to the streets and subway stations on Ash Wednesday to offer ashes to passers-by.

This initiative has had a profound effect on the way the bishop and some clergy in Chicago view their ministry. Bishop Jeff Lee frequently tells the story of a woman, who, upon receiving ashes from him on a street corner outside of the diocesan offices said that she never imagined that “the church would come out here to us.” Her response, he suggests, is a kind of charge. The mission of the church is to bring what happens inside its walls out into the streets.

This year, we’ve heard reports that Ashes to Go will be on offer in St. Louis, where it seems the initiative got started, New Jersey, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Florida and New York. And we can’t imagine that Sara Miles and others from St. Gregory of Nyssa in San Francisco won’t be out in the streets again. (Sara wrote one of the most popular essays on the site last year about her Ash Wednesday experiences.)

But Chicago, where some 25 congregations participated in Ashes to Go last year, is the center of the movement at the moment.

Our coverage of Ashes to Go generated some spirited conversation last year. You can catch up with it here, but if you want join the conversation, or tell us about your Ash Wednesday plans, please leave your comments on this item.


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barbara snyder

I agree, Scott, that the idea of public liturgies is a good one. The church has always had public festivals on certain days – but it might be really interesting to think more about doing things like this in new ways.

(In New York, from what I can remember, some Episcopal organzation (the Diocese of NY, maybe?) has done a street Eucharist on Pride Sunday for awhile now.)

Scott Lybrand

I’m a part of a congregation called Urban Village Church. We’ll be out on the streets in 12 locations around Chicago to pass out (impose?) ashes. This is a huge moment of evangelism for us, and the response is really quite astonishing.

It’s gotten me thinking about other public liturgies that might work, and I’m currently toying with how to do Eucharist on the streets (perhaps on Pride Sunday?), and perhaps Stations of the Cross that involves walking around my church’s neighborhood.


I think Ashes to Go is a wonderful idea, and I can’t, for the life of me, see why the practice is in any way controversial.

June Butler

Jim Naughton

Thanks, CWingate. I think it is fixed.

C. Wingate

The link needs a little HTML-loving-care…

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