My first interest in Ashes to Go was because I knew the priest, the Rev. Emily Mellot, who was developing the program. She was from the Diocese of Chicago and was a student at Church Divinity School of the Pacific when David was on faculty there. I figured that if Emily was doing it, it was worth a second look. Then while we were attending St. George’s in Arlington, before I came on staff here at Christ Church, I suggested it to the rector there. St. George’s is one very short block away from the Virginia stop on the Orange line. They did not do it that year, but in 2012 St. George’s had a team at their metro stop. Their experience was great and some who encountered the Ashes to Go team at the metro joined them for the full Ash Wednesday worship experience that evening. Based on their experience and our interest at Christ Church to be more visible out in the community (beyond our fence banners!), it seemed that 2013 was the year for us to offer Ashes to Go.

Our Ashes to Go team was our two seminarians, John Hogg and Fares Naoum, another seminary student, Connor Gwin, and me. We believed it was a sign from God that there was a long term parking space available for us in the King Street Metro parking lot that morning! We got there about 6:30 a.m., got some coffee, and then did our set-up outside the Metro gates. No sooner did we put down the bag with our flyers and ashes that we had a young guy there wanting ashes. It was 6:45 a.m.

By the time we left at 9:30 a.m., we had approximately 100 people come to us. Some just wanted a prayer and no ashes. Some may have just wanted ashes but got a prayer as well. There were men and women who were moved to tears and needed a hug. One young man said, “That’s for you, Dad,” after receiving his ashes, which moved our team to tears. One woman was so grateful that we were there, saying that she had been on her way to Ash Wednesday services at her church when she had a flat tire, missed the service while it was being changed, and then was able to still have ashes because we were at the Metro. One person saw us from his hotel window came down, said he attends Epiphany Episcopal Church in Walpole, MA, and was glad that he could have a bit of Ash Wednesday worship. One of the last sets of people I imposed ashes on was a family who may have been leaving on vacation or returning home from one – mom, dad, and two teenage daughters, all with suitcases. Dad took a picture of us while we prayed and then received his ashes as well. Can you imagine that in the family album?!

a2g-heather-fares-older-woman.jpg

A handful of Christ Church parishioners came for their Ash Wednesday experience at the Metro – some before getting on the train, others who parked for a few minutes and then headed on their way. But the majority of the “congregation” were not affiliated with Christ Church. I expect that some were Roman Catholics, some probably other traditions, and some maybe lapsed in their faith. For me, the purpose of doing Ashes to Go was to make a space for intentional connection with God and to help the spark of faith grow again in those for whom it has grown dim. I think we accomplished those things. I look forward to doing it again next year and for listening for what other creative places, beyond our walls, God wants us to go.

The Ashes to Go Liturgy:

The minister offers a prayer:

Almighty and merciful God, you hate nothing you have made, and forgive the sins of all who are penitent; create in us new and contrite hearts, so that when we turn to you and confess our sins and acknowledge our need, we may receive your full and perfect forgiveness, through Jesus Christ our Redeemer. Amen.

Ashes are marked on the forehead with the following words:

Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return.

The minister then says,

Go in peace. Amen.