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Where do you go for your ashes?

Where do you go for your ashes?

Episcopal News Service has published a story on this year’s incarnations of the Ashes to Go practice that has been growing among churches of all denominations and worship spaces, including airports:

The Rev. Donna S. Mote, Episcopal chaplain at the Atlanta Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport, says she will offer “Ashes on the Fly” to domestic and international travelers throughout the day on Ash Wednesday.

“I’m out and about, which is my usual style,” said Mote, 51, who describes her parish as “4,700 acres, in a geographic sense,” through which pass an average of about 274,000 passengers on any given day.

If previous years are any indicator, she expects to impose ashes on hundreds of foreheads for people of a variety of faiths, nationalities and beliefs. She has described some of her encounters on Facebook.

“Ashes to Go,” as a name, has given rise to ideas including Drive-Through Ashes, Smudge on the Run and Lent in a Bag:

The Rev. Harry Jenkins, rector of Christ Episcopal Church in Slidell, Louisiana, plans to offer ashes, prayers and “Lent in a Bag” to drive-through worshippers.

Included in the brown paper bag is: a copy of Episcopal Relief & Development’s 2016 Lenten Meditations, sand, a rock, a human figure, a candle and a cross, said Jenkins.

“With each of the items there’s a question or a slight description for them to think about what it means,” Jenkins said. “Basically, the sand is to reflect on Jesus going into the wilderness. The rock could be a couple of things—when Jesus was invited to transform stone into bread and about the hunger in the world and that we might pray for those who are hungry…”

The bag also includes a schedule of Lenten services, and last year 300 people came for ashes, most of them not members of Christ.

To read about other priests’ and parishes’ approaches to Ash Wednesday, read the story here. Share your own experiences in the comments below or on our Facebook page.

Photo from 2015 news roundup at the Diocese of Fort Worth.


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Mary Davisson

As a port chaplain, I visit (and train volunteers to visit) cargo ships docked in Baltimore. Crew members typically hail from economically struggling countries, may have less than one day in port, and may be prevented by long work hours and complicated security rules from going ashore. Working eight to fourteen months on board, many would love to attend church but have no opportunity. I was able to bring ashes and prayers to two crews Wednesday. In each case, the first crew member to receive ashes not only expressed gratitude but also hurried out of the room to let his crewmates know that this was available. This winter’s storms have been particularly violent, and they appreciated the brief prayers which their work schedules permitted.

Neil Alan Willard

In addition to the people who attended one of four Ash Wednesday liturgies at Palmer Memorial Episcopal Church in Houston, Texas, 1188 individuals received a cross of ashes on their foreheads on the streets around Palmer, including 76 folks at Texas Children’s Hospital. This is one of the stories from yesterday:

Marshall Scott

We had several congregations in the Kansas City area that did something of the sort. Here in the health system, we regularly reach out to offer ashes at stations. Our basic reason is that so many who work here work 12-hour shifts, whether from 7a to 7p or 7p to 7a. Since in fact they work 12.5 to 13 hours, many can’t make it to a church service. Most are Roman Catholic, but we are also approached by Episcopalians and Lutherans and other liturgical Christians. We are also approached by other Christians who want to think about Lent, and make an expression of piety, if not always of penitence per se.

That said, we saw our share of others. One young mother told me she had been out on work events Tuesday night, and would be out tonight, and so wanted the evening with her baby. There were other reasons. Years ago, I heard one thing from a bishop who otherwise did not leave me with all that helpful a memory. The bishop said of Eucharist and children, “When in doubt, feed.” I can on occasion wrestle with that in both directions. On the other hand, I really don’t wrestle with, “When in doubt, ash.?

Eric Bonett

The church where I work has a drive-through Ashes to Go, replete with a fire pit and three clergy. Traffic is good, and a surprising number want to talk about, and pray for, issues in their lives, like terminally ill family members, or even just the hustle and pressure of life in Northern VA. A wonderful ministry and reminder that we are there to care for all persons.

Mary Caulfield

I had to run from work to the commuter train so I could visit my dad in assisted living on his birthday. I just couldn’t synchronize with a regular liturgy. I would have been so grateful if I had encountered someone offering Ashes to Go. In the end, I read the liturgy from the BCP when I arrived at home.

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