March 29, 2017

February 22, 2012

Ashes To Go

From USA Today

More than 70 Episcopal parishes in 18 states will bring Ash Wednesday to the streets, kicking off the Lenten season with a twist.

They’ll offer the Christian sign of repentance — a smudged cross of ashes on the forehead — to anyone who seeks it in train stations, coffee shops and other public spots.

Dubbed Ashes to Go, it’s a contemporary spin on the Ash Wednesday practice followed chiefly in Episcopal, Anglican, Catholic and Lutheran denominations.

Taking ashes on the road started in St. Louis in 2007 when the Rev. Teresa K.M. Danieley decided that if people can grab breakfast on the go, why shouldn’t they be able to get their ashes in a flash? “It started sort of half-jokingly, but it became something pretty profound,” she told Religion News Service.


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Not surprised. Next it will be Communion to Go. She can set up a Communion Kiosk ... That would increase ASA. With at a tip, plate would also increase.

[1] Posted by martin5 on 2-22-2012 at 02:37 PM · [top]

Why spend all that money on old decaying church buildings? Kiosks might be the way to go! The fancy vestments might have to be ditched in the summer months, saving more money!

[2] Posted by Undergroundpewster on 2-22-2012 at 02:57 PM · [top]

This is what comes inevitably of prevenient Arminian grace and a sacerdotal priesthood.

[3] Posted by Aaytch on 2-22-2012 at 03:24 PM · [top]

Sorry far, far too busy to read the article. If you could movingly summarize as I stride along the sidewalk I might be willing to give it 30 seconds of attention. Thanks.

[4] Posted by driver8 on 2-22-2012 at 04:01 PM · [top]

So, is there a drive-through?

[5] Posted by Tomb01 on 2-22-2012 at 04:32 PM · [top]

Sorry, but there’s no substitute for the traditional Imposition of Ashes, followed by the Eucharist.

[6] Posted by cennydd13 on 2-22-2012 at 04:38 PM · [top]

I guess for them, the ceremony is still in fashion even if the meaning behind the ceremony is no longer such a big deal (repentance of sin).  confused

[7] Posted by Hosea6:6 on 2-22-2012 at 04:48 PM · [top]

Every year when I receive ashes, I wonder if I would be courageous enough to receive them in a country where Christians are actively persecuted—Egypt, Pakistan—even Indonesia.  My guess is that there are no Ashes To Go in those countries.

[8] Posted by Judith L on 2-22-2012 at 08:24 PM · [top]

Profound?!?!  Maybe her definition of “profound” is flaccid and vacuous.  This is a meaningless ritual for people who don’t have a clue about Lent.  Perhaps you can make a case that the ministers are evangelizing.  But the recipients are just glad to have found an easy way to get that cool mark on their forehead so they can show everyone how pious they are.  No reflection?  No repentance?  No thanks!!

[9] Posted by Nikolaus on 2-22-2012 at 09:06 PM · [top]

As another voice, I think this is a wonderful idea. Far too many priests and laypeople, in far too many denominations, are more prone to sit on their ashes then they are to engage anyone outside of their church buildings. Is it possible to run into a hypocrite who think it’s hip to wear ashes? Sure. Is it possible to have hypocritical members of your parish come to your building and receive ashes? Sure, and perhaps even more likely. So I applaud these people’s spunk to engage the people in their community and actually offer to pray for them. I’ll let God worry about the intentions of the receivers; I have enough to worry about when it comes to my role as a giver and sharer of Jesus.

[10] Posted by Pressing On on 2-22-2012 at 09:23 PM · [top]

I was at a hospital today to bring the Eucharist to a lady who had had a double mastectomy the day before. I did not bring ashes with me as she was no doubt much more aware of her mortality before God then many of the people whom I imposed ashes on this morning and this evening, including me. While I was waiting at the reception desk to learn of her room number, an Episcopalian recognized me by my collar and wedding band and asked if I had any ashes. With all the coming and goings of what had brought her to the hospital, she was not able to make the service at her church.  I had to admit that I did not, but I did offer her the Eucharist and prayers. Because of timing, she accepted the latter from me and not the former. That incident from this afternoon made me wonder about the number of people today whom truly desired to be able to be in church today but who, because of circumstances beyond their control, could not. Is it thus so wrong of the church to reach outside their walls and touch the lives of some of these people? Are we really so crass as to tell people that unless they come to church, Ash Wednesday doesn’t count and therefore, tough luck for them, they missed it? More importantly, did Jesus never engage people outside of the synagogue with the offer of repentance, renewal, and good news?

[11] Posted by Pressing On on 2-22-2012 at 09:37 PM · [top]

Heres to bringing it to the people.  Next maybe they can get a fire truck to drive down the street spraying the people and calling it baptism.  Lo, a great revival has broken out.  And they laughed at Robert Schuller and his drive in church!

[12] Posted by PROPHET MICAIAH on 2-22-2012 at 10:11 PM · [top]

I find the “Ashes to Go” concept silly, vacuous; horrible theology.  That being said, last night, we had a church plant hold it’s first public service, Ash Wednesday, at a pub.  Not on the street to passers by; not in the parking lot; the liturgy in the pub, in full sight and full hearing.  Now, that’s what “Ashes to Go” should be doing, . .

[13] Posted by Michael+ on 2-23-2012 at 07:37 AM · [top]

The full Ash Wednesday service would be irrelevant to a Universalist. If all are saved, then why bother with Lent?

But, going around with ashes on your forehead tells everybody how good a Christian you are. And, not having heard (or thought about) the Gospel lesson for that service, you might think that’s a good thing.

[14] Posted by Ralph on 2-23-2012 at 08:24 AM · [top]

#13 - Michael+, sent you private message.

[15] Posted by Festivus on 2-23-2012 at 08:55 AM · [top]

#15, Festivus, I replied to your email account (not via SF message).

[16] Posted by Michael+ on 2-23-2012 at 10:00 AM · [top]

The ashes remind us that we are temporary, ephemeral beings; created by God from His creation and destined, because of our pride and lack of faith in our Creator, to return to the dust from which we came.  But, if only the ashes are given, if only we are reminded of our mortality, if we are not invited to partake in the Body and Blood of our Savior Jesus Christ, then we are given only half of the message, and we are not reminded of our immortality.

It seems to me that this all too public and very much inappropriate display of piety on the part of the ministers of the Church borders on the type of hypocrisy that Jesus warns against in the Gospel for Ash Wednesday.  “Aren’t we, the priests say as they head out on the street for a quick slap-dash of ash on a passing commuters forehead, the greatest thing since sliced bread!  We are doing our thing so everyone can see and nobody will have to even break stride in their busy and ever so important business of the day.  No one need think seriously about important spiritual or theological matters because we will make it possible to have all the appearances of piety with none of the inconvenience.”

This is actually a perfect representation of the where ECUSA is….and where it is going.

Fr. Michael+

[17] Posted by Sacerdotal451 on 2-23-2012 at 10:38 AM · [top]

Again, I believe that God should judge the intentions of the receiver of the ashes and, in Fr. Michael’s comment above, the giver of the ashes. Some wear their ashes to show how good a Christian they are; some wear them as a sign of personal devotion; some wear them as an opportunity to engage others in conversation; and some wear them because they forgot to wipe them off. To put everyone in the same boat is to take joy of the beauty of the beam in your own judgmental eye.

[18] Posted by Pressing On on 2-23-2012 at 10:52 AM · [top]

Here’s a link to the TV coverage from our new plant, Church of the Savior, and their Ash Wednesday service in a pub:

[19] Posted by Michael+ on 2-23-2012 at 11:02 AM · [top]

Oh Lord - do we actually have folks arguing that prayer may be fittingly modeled on fast food delivery - and measuring the meaning of an act of prayer by a calculus of customer (or provider) satisfaction?

The intention of the participants is key to the meaning of an act. If I promise my wife that I am going to show my enormous regard for her worth in a special once a year kind of way, and then take her to the Drive Through, let me tell you, there’ll be no mystery about either my intention or hers. And it won’t make things better if I also try to catch her on the street and offer her a small piece of hamburger as she walks past.

[20] Posted by driver8 on 2-23-2012 at 05:01 PM · [top]

I suppose Bp Sauls and his Archbishopress think that this sort of “drive-by” smearing with ash constitutes evangelism and will entice new members into their dying denomination.

[21] Posted by sophy0075 on 2-23-2012 at 05:06 PM · [top]

I have yet to see any of the purportedly Anglican blogs mention the one service prescribed by the Prayer Book for the First Day of Lent.

Lent in 1662: The Commination
This year marks the 350th anniversary of the 1662 Book of Common Prayer, an edition of said book that was to endure for centuries with little or no modification, and from which all of today’s Anglican Prayer Books, from Edinburgh to Toronto, from New York to Singapore, from Nairobi to Wellington are descended.

This book is descended from the work of Thomas Cranmer in the sixteenth century, itself a reformed, Anglicised version of the mediaeval Latin Use of Sarum (from which I have my translations of the marriage ceremony and a version of Vespers available on this site).

1662 includes, for Ash Wednesday, ‘A Commination‘ (literally, ‘threatening of vengeance’), descended from 1549′s service for the First Day of Lent. This service breathes fire; those with a knee-jerk reaction to things Reformed will take one look at its preface and declare, ‘This is why I’m not Reformed!’

Here is the fiery text of 1662:

BRETHREN, in the Primitive Church there was a godly discipline, that, at the beginning of Lent, such persons as stood convicted of notorious sin were put to open penance, and punished in this world, that their souls might be saved in the day of the Lord; and that others, admonished by their example, might be the more afraid to offend.
Instead whereof, until the said discipline may be restored again, (which is much to be wished,) it is thought good, that at this time (in the presence of you all) should be read the general sentences of God’s cursing against impenitent sinners, gathered out of the seven and twentieth Chapter of Deuteronomy, and other places of Scripture; and that ye should answer to every Sentence, Amen: To the intent that, being admonished of the great indignation of God against sinners, ye may the rather be moved to earnest and true repentance; and may walk more warily in these dangerous days; fleeing from such vices, for which ye affirm with your own mouths the curse of God to be due.

The service proceeds to list various sinners the Bible calls ‘accursed’ — not just idolaters or cursers of parents, but those who move their neighbour’s landmark as well. Most of us would agree with someone who listed these sins that they are bad — those who purposefully divert the blind, adulterers, fornicators, murderers of the innocent for profit, those who trust humans rather than God and the rest.

But we are careful today to use the word ‘cursed’ of those who commit these sins. Deuteronomy isn’t, declaring a whole swathe of sinners cursed (Gk. epikataratos, Lat. maledictus)* before entering the Promised Land. And in Deuteronomy, as in 1549 and 1662, the people are to answer, ‘Amen,’ to each declaration of cursedness.

I do not think that this service is either excessively ‘Reformed’ in the most dour vision of the Reformed or ‘mediaeval’ in the most fire-and-brimstone vision of mediaeval piety.

The purpose, as with much mediaeval and Reformed proclamations of sin, is to call sinners to repentance. No doubt the Mosaic version had much the same bent. Sin is a reality and it has real consequences. Part of Lent, at least in western views since the Middle Ages, is to repent us of our sins.

If the list of sins seems a bit much to us, perhaps that is good. Perhaps we need a reminder of our own ‘wretchedness’ (to use another BCP word). Once we stand face to face with our own depravity, then can we all the more rejoice in God’s grace.

This is the end goal of healthy mediaeval and Reformed piety. Not for us to spend our lives in sack cloth and ashes, rubbing excrement on our faces like King Priam upon the death of Hector. No, rather, it is for us to acknowledge our own brokenness and to turn to the redeemer for the grace he gives and to be transformed into his likeness.

Finally, a note for those who think this sort of call against sinners is ‘Old Testament’ or ‘too mediaeval’ or ‘Reformed’, take note of the lists of sinners who will not partake in the Kingdom of God according to St. Paul, take a look at Tertullian’s work On Modesty, observe Leo the Great’s calls to sinners, read the Eastern Greek Mark the Monk’s fear for his own salvation despite his asceticism. It is a healthy balance to our joy, not something to abandon because of certain excesses in particular times, places, and traditions.

*If I can’t do Hebrew, I can at least pull out the Classical languages!

[22] Posted by RMBruton on 2-23-2012 at 10:58 PM · [top]

Creedal Christian has an excellent post with commentary about Ashes to Go, here:

HIGHLY recommended reading.

[23] Posted by Karen B. on 2-26-2012 at 07:31 AM · [top]

Drive-by Christianity is about all that many people have the attention span for these days. Perpetual transmogrification and “adaptation” to the “changes” in the World are the hallmarks of what passes for doctrine in many churches. My response to which is a hearty ‘how’s that working for you?’

[24] Posted by RMBruton on 2-26-2012 at 08:34 AM · [top]

Interesting post RMB (#22).  You make this comment: “from which I have my translations of the marriage ceremony and a version of Vespers available on this site.”  Could you direct us further?  I’m not certain about the site to which you refer.  Thanks.

[25] Posted by Nikolaus on 2-26-2012 at 09:40 AM · [top]

Sorry, typo that should read “from which I do not have ...” It was in reference to an older site which has since been taken down. Next time I will review before posting. The Commination reminds me somewhat of the Vesper service we had in the Russian Orthodox Church on the Sunday of Orthodoxy, when the Anathemas are read publicly.

[26] Posted by RMBruton on 2-26-2012 at 12:57 PM · [top]

That is too bad - none the less, thank you for the post.

[27] Posted by Nikolaus on 2-26-2012 at 02:05 PM · [top]

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