Ashes to Go
Today is the first day of Lent and members of some Christian denominations throughout the world are pouring into church for the traditional means of Blessing of the Ashes on this Ash Wednesday. One location in Long Beach doesn’t require you to go to Mass. Instead, you can get your ashes to go.
They arrived on four wheels and some even walked, all on a common mission as four clergymen and a clergy woman reached out beyond the four walls of their churches to meet the masses during this new approach to Ash Wednesday. Grace Lutheran Pastor Dave Parr said, “We are out here on the parking lot of the John Simpson Fishing Pier to provide this service for people who are on the way to work or school or wherever they may be going and may not have time to get to a church service today so they can just come by here and take a couple of seconds we will pray with them, do the imposition of ashes, and they can be on their way.”
Ashes to Go started on the Mississippi Gulf Coast four years ago when local ministers realized that some people could be too busy to participate in the day in the traditional way. Long Beach First UMC Senior Pastor John Kaufman said, “We live in a hectic world and for many it is hard to have that time to go to worship and so we wanted to offer this this morning to help people experience Ash Wednesday and to be able to get the ashes and pray with them and offer them this sign of the ashes.”
This is something Long Beach residents Susan and Albert Littell are thankful for as they receive the ashen sign of the cross in the comfort of their car to observe the first day of Lent. “For older people, like my husband, he has trouble with his knees so to be able to just drive through and not have to get out and walk that’s also a big help.” “That is a blessing.”
The centuries old Christian tradition of spreading ashes may have gone outside church walls, but even sitting in your car, church leaders say its meaning remains the same. “Ashes represent our mortality, the brevity of life and also represents our repentance. That opens a door for us to experience and encounter God in new ways and a way to turn away from our brokenness and to seek out God.”