Ashes to Go – A Story About Ash Wednesday at St. Mary’s Outside the Parish Walls
Today after our early morning Eucharist and Imposition of ashes, a small group from St. Mary’s consisting of lay and clergy – parishioner and former senior parish warden Debbie Veatch, our active parish deacons, Nancy Bryan and Tim Smith, and our retired deacon Everett Powell -invited passers-by to receive ashes at the corners of Union and Fillmore. We delivered ashes to over 50 individuals during a period of about one hour. Most of the recipients would not have otherwise received ashes or spiritually experienced Ash Wednesday. The St. Mary’s group today continued a five-year parish tradition of ministering with the community outside the walls of the church by inviting individuals in the Cow Hollow neighborhood to receive ashes on Ash Wednesday. Over the years the parish’s Ashes to Go ministry team has invited and imposed ashes on individuals of all ages and ethnic origins in the neighborhood including commuters to work, parents and children on the way to school, bus drivers stopping at the intersection, baristas from local cafes, contractors working in the neighborhood, tourists from foreign countries, and one young man who after receiving ashes asked me to pose in a selfie with him to reassure his mother that he had received ashes on Ash Wednesday!
In the solemnity of Ash Wednesday marking the beginning of Lent our Ashes to Go ministry brings joy every year to its members because it enables them to share the gift of the Holy Spirit in community with those in the neighborhood. For all of us today our experience enabled us to live out our baptismal vow to seek and serve Christ in all persons, loving our neighbors as ourselves and for the deacons to live out their ordination vow to interpret to the Church the needs, concerns, and hopes of the world. Based on Ashes to Go today and in prior years, those needs, concerns, and hopes for many even among the currently unchurched include being invited and feeling spiritually embraced by a faith community like St. Mary’s informed by the love and grace of God in Christ.
We look forward to more parishioners joining our Ashes to Go ministry on future Ash Wednesdays!