Ashes: Should They Stay or Should They Go?

10 Responses

  1. Ana Arellano says:

    I would prefer the service without Eucharist. Something about spareness and less ceremony. Just the imposition of ashes, and the meaning of the ashes. Though I agree it is joyful indeed to turn to God!

    • Scott Gunn says:

      Yes, I didn’t want to get into all that, but I think a service with just the ash bits (and the litany of penitence, &c.) could be lovely. Or evensong. While I do love Eucharist with ashes, there are other beautiful and compelling ways to get our Lenten journey under way.

  2. landl30 says:

    Well said Scott… a Holy Lent to you….
    Len Freeman

  3. Gloria Veltman says:

    I liked this essay. Personally I do “give up” some things but I also add some things. This takes the form of, among other things, adding specific Lenten reading to my morning spiritual reading. In addition, in the last couple of years I have added something to my Lenten observance. This year I am going to be conscientious about writing about what I am reading.

  4. Mary Keenan says:

    Thanks for this! I’ve also been thinking this year about the communal aspects of Lent, not just the personal spiritual disciplines. If you think about wearing the ashes as a sign of being part of a community repenting, fasting, and praying together, it seems a whole lot less prideful (at least to me.)

  5. Hi Scott. You write “…a misunderstanding of who Ashes to Go is for. Of course, it is not for people who are members of a congregation, committed disciples of Jesus Christ. Those folks will generally do what is necessary to find their way to a church on this solemn day.”

    It was an eye-opener for me a few years ago to be one of the clergy at St. John’s Tallahassee who walked the four blocks to the state Capitol to offer Ashes to Go, and quiet prayers with those who accepted the invitation. Standing in the busy entrance rotunda just inside the security scanners, we had all sorts and conditions of people come to us during legislative session: members of the security team, legislators, lobbyists, and representatives of organizations from across the state who drove in for the day (or more) and were in the building all day, and then headed home. A number of them thanked us for coming to them — because their day began even before our first church service and ended only after evening commitments.

    Thanks for your good thoughts and for helping me in my Ash Wednesday prayers and reflections.

  6. Well-thought essay, Scott. Thank you. I spent many years as an atheist, and a number following that as a “secret” Christian. I believe God calls on us to share our faith in the hope of bringing peace and joy to others, but it is still difficult for me to do that. So I do use a “selfie” of myself with ashes as a means of promoting the faith, in the hope that those in need of God’s grace may see the peace it brings to me and perhaps lead them to the faith. Most of all, I appreciate your statement that we cannot see what is in each other’s hearts. I prefer to give others the benefit of the doubt, rather than to “correct” their errors. Happy Lent!

  7. Elaine Culver says:

    Our rector, the Rev. Susan Kennard, graciously allows lay persons to impose ashes along with the clergy during Ashes to Go. I love this service because of the diversity of the people who pray with us and receive the ashes. “Here comes everybody,” each with his or her own reason for receiving and his or her own reaction to the imposition of the ashes. Last year our parish administrator and photographer in residence took a picture of our charcoal grey thumbs and posted it in the parish newsletter during Lent. Tonight we’ll have a service of the Eucharist with Imposition of Ashes, and this will be a different but equally meaningful service for some of us. I believe that those of us who have participated in Ashes to Go will carry to the altar rail, in our memories and hearts, the people who received on the seawall.
    Elaine Culver, Trinity Episcopal Church, Galveston, TX

  8. While I certainly support those who are offering Ashes To Go, for me there is something deeply moving about our Prayer Book service. Being welcomed to the Lord’s table after humbly confessing through the Litany of Penitence reminds me that my prodigal nature can not separate me from the One who awaits with open arms of love, arms that are open despite the ash by which I have been marked. In whatever way we choose to signify the beginning of the holy season of Lent, let us remember that it is through the grace of God that we have the eyes to see, the ears to hear, the minds to understand, and the hearts to love.

  9. Jeff Lipschultz says:

    One thing I will point out is that “Ashes to Go” is not as new of a custom as it seems. I don’t know exactly when they started it, but the Roman Catholic Franciscans have been doing essentially the same thing in downtown Chicago for longer than our clergy have been heading to train stations and street corners (I don’t know exactly how long they have been doing this, but upwards of a decade and most likely a lot longer than that). You go through the basement of St. Peter’s Church, which is in the central business district on the street most people use to walk to and from trains to the suburbs, and very close to the city trains and many bus routes. They impose ashes continuously for 11 hours in the auditorium; there are also expansions to the church’s already very generous weekday mass and confession schedule. Certainly a lot of people participate in the Eucharist and then go get ashes, or vice versa, but you can have one without the other according to your own piety, and they take advantage of that fact to make their busiest day of the year go a lot smoother. They ash about 20,000 people every year in an operation that is only different from Ashes to Go in that it takes place underneath a church surrounded by train stations instead of actually happening at a train station.

%d bloggers like this: