Ashes to Go was phenomenal last year! Phenomenal in the sense of an extraordinary event, with people across the US participating and experiencing God and God’s people coming to meet them in the midst of life, and phenomenal in the sense of the Greek root meaning to manifest, appear, or shine. God’s grace shone and manifested through all sorts of encounters with puzzled or grateful people, tears and laughter, and all sorts of grace in moments of repentance and acceptance – a few of the stories are here.
Now it’s time for the movement to come alive again. It’s just under five weeks to Ash Wednesday, February 13, so it’s time to start thinking and planning. Ashes to Go can be incredibly easy to offer – just take a container of ashes, and an open, prayerful attitude out of the church to any place where God’s people can stop for a moment – but these are the days to think about just where you want to be, and what context you want to offer.
Ashes to Go flourishes in places where people can easily see you and pause for a moment – places with pedestrian traffic, or an easy place to pull out off the stream of cars. That makes transit stops, business districts, school campuses and some shopping areas ideal. If you’re headed on to private property, check ahead with the owner or manager.
And think about the context you create. The moment works whether you’ve got vestments, incense, signs and symbols – or just a few people with ashes in hand – but think ahead about the community you’re in, and the community you represent, and decide how much or how little church you want to bring to the streets.
Finally, this is the time to plan your takeaway. The ashes are enough, but a bookmark with prayers or a booklet of Lenten Meditations may provide people with ways to deepen and continue their experience of grace. And a contact card or a leaflet with Lenten programs may help people reconnect with a community of faith.
Blessings in your preparation, and in the countdown to Ashes!