Church Takes Ash Wednesday to the Streets

January 26, 2016

On Ash Wednesday, 10 February, ministers from several churches will be offering “Ashes to Go,” a new approach to a centuries-old Christian tradition, from 7 - 8 a.m. near the bus stops on 2nd Street and 1st Avenue in downtown Rochester.

Ashes To Go is part of a new nationwide movement that has clergy and lay people visiting transit stops, street corners, coffee shops, and college campuses to mark the foreheads of interested passers-by with ashes and invite them to repent of past wrongdoing and seek forgiveness and renewal.

In the Christian tradition, Ash Wednesday marks the start of the holy season of Lent, a time for reflection and repentance in preparation for the celebration of Easter. For centuries, Christians have received a cross of ashes on the face at the beginning of that season as a reminder of mortal failings and an invitation to receive God’s forgiveness. Ashes to Go provides the opportunity to participate in that tradition for people who may have lost their connection to a Faith Community or have never participated before.

“This is an opportunity to meet people where they are…for a moment of prayer in the midst of their busy lives,” says the Rev. Doug Sparks, Pastor of St. Luke’s Episcopal Church in Rochester.

“Ashes to Go is about bringing the important traditions of our faith out from behind church walls and into the places we need them every day,” says the Rev. Emily Mellott, who maintains the website with resources and stories about this ministry. “As people get busier and busier, we need the church in new and non-traditional ways. We especially need reminders of forgiveness in the tough places of our working lives. The people who accept ashes on the street are often people longing to make a connection between their faith and the forces of daily life, and Ashes to Go helps them feel that connection.”

In Rochester, this is the fourth year several ministers from the Ecumenical Community are offering Ashes to Go. We will gather just before 7 a.m. on Ash Wednesday and find a corner near several bus stops in hopes of meeting people for a moment of prayer as they make their way to work!

Contact the Rev. Dr. Douglas Sparks, St. Luke’s Episcopal Church, or 507-272-1777 for more information. More information about the Ashes to Go movement can be found at