Sunday, February 17, 2013

Ashes to Go

As we are now into Lent with today being the first Sunday during this time of holy reflection, it has been interesting to see some of the coverage from the "Ashes to Go" effort on Wednesday. As I noted last year, some clergy are taking Ash Wednesday to the streets to meet and minister to people where they are. The effort is growing with ministers from multiple denominations in 22 states participating. For instance, the Dallas Morning News reported on a Methodist minister who distributed ashes at a metro stop next to coffee and doughnut vendors, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported on an Episcopalian minister who distributed ashes in Market Square, the Baltimore Sun reported on an Episcopalian minister who distributed ashes in front of a Starbucks, and a Chicago TV station reported on a United Church of Christ minister who distributed ashes at a metro stop. One interesting version of the effort came in New Albany, Indiana. As the Louisville Courier-Journal reported, an Episcopalian minister led what he called "Sax and Ashes" (instead of sackcloth and ashes), which was an Ash Wednesday service held in a winery that included ashes and saxophone solos of hymns. These efforts to take the sacred moment out of the churches and to the streets are fascinating (as are similar efforts to take Advent to the streets). Another unique Ash Wednesday effort occurred in Washington, D.C. as several clergy distributed ashes during a ceremony across the street from the U.S. Capitol. As the Washington Post explained, the service focused on the importance of loving immigrants and occurred just before a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on immigration reform. This effort to connect a religious service to public policy is also a meaningful attempt to move faith from being something that does not escape the walls of a church.

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