In-Sight: Ashes To Go

Each Wednesday during Lent, I will offer a second post—one focusing specifically on our Lenten journey.

Today is Ash Wednesday, and I want to share a story I recently heard Diana Butler Bass tell.

The Episcopal Bishop of Chicago was discouraged by the declining church attendance in his diocese.  This included smaller attendance at Ash Wednesday services.

So, he decided to design what he called, “Ashes To Go.”

Along with others, he hit the busy streets of Chicago as people were leaving their offices for the day.  He wondered if anyone would stop and receive the imposition of ashes.  To his amazement, person after person did.  Many said in effect, “It’s been years since I’ve been inside a church, but I am so blessed that the church has come outside to me.”

A few people riding in taxi cabs even had the driver pull over so they could get out of the cab and receive the ashes.  Bass concluded the story by saying it’s this kind of thing that we must do to revive Christianity in the 21st century.

When I heard her story, I thought of a 5’2″ priest in the Church of England around 1750.  His name was John Wesley.  He too was discouraged by the declining participation in Christianity and attendance at church by people.  He decided to do something about it.

He began to show up around 5:00 a.m. at the entrance to the coal mines, and from there he declared “the unsearchable riches of Christ.”  The coal miners were astounded.  Many of them had not been inside a church for a long time, but they were responsive when the church came outside to them.  Much of Methodism came into being outside coal mines.

Before today is over, many of us will have gone into churches to receive the ashes, but many more will not.  Maybe it’s time for something like “ashes to go” where you live.

About Steve Harper

Retired seminary professor, who taught for 32 years in the disciplines of Spiritual Formation and Wesley Studies. Author and co-author of 42 books. Also a retired Elder in The Florida Annual Conference of The United Methodist Church.
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1 Response to In-Sight: Ashes To Go

  1. Sue Brady says:

    Steve, that would be a wonderful idea, wonder why someone didn’t think of it before, with all the people who just can’t make it to church, or are wondering about their faith. Much like the idea of taking music to the nursing homes/assisted living sites, which I have wanted our church to do for years now, but for some reason or another it never got off the ground. Good luck with this, and it’s a wonderful idea!

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