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.