Ash Wednesday: New York Churches Offer ‘Ashes To Go’ For City’s Busy Faithfuls

Ash Wednesday marks the beginning of the Lent, a celebration of Jesus’ 40-day fasting mentioned in the book of Matthew. It also calls upon the followers of Christ to spend 40 days in peace, repentance and generosity towards others.

If you are a Christian and a New Yorker at the same time, chances are, you don’t have 40 days to spare. Most don’t even have an hour to spend for a quick Ash Wednesday mass.

That is why churches around New York have come up with a holy plan that is well-suited for the fast-paced faithfuls of today.

It’s called ‘Ashes To Go’ and it’s basically a practical solution for Christian New Yorkers who can’t attend mass and have their foreheads marked. Churches that conduct ‘Ashes To Go’ brings Ash Wednesday outside the church and onto the streets where ministers can put ash on a worshipper’s forehead beside coffee stands or art sellers.

According to the New York Daily News, several churches in Manhattan have been practicing this unique Ash Wednesday event for years. One of them is Trinity Church headed by Reverend Emily Wachner, who has been doing ‘Ashes To Go’ for three years.

Another is Presbyterian Welcome by Reverend Mieke Vandersal. Gay and lesbian believers can expect ash from Presbyterian Welcome, an LGBT-friendly Christian ministry.

There are also churches outside New York that practice ‘Ashes To Go’. Memphis Flyer reports that a local church called Calvary Episcopal Church also offers Ash Wednesday ceremonies along Main Street in Memphis, Tennessee..

Nothing in the Bible directly says about the celebration of the Lent or of Ash Wednesday in particular. Biblical experts note that the church has been celebrating Lent since 325 AD.

The tradition of putting ash on the forehead is known to be a reference to Genesis 3:19 which says:

“By the sweat of your brow you will eat your food until you return to the ground, since from it you were taken; for dust you are and to dust you will return.”

During Ash Wednesday 2012, a similar stunt was made by an Ohio church called Mt.Healthy United Methodist Church when they conducted their Ash Wednesday ceremony at the church’s parking lot, placing ash on the foreheads of worshipers behind wheels.

Most of these churches agree that the location of the ceremony doesn’t matter, as long as believers who submit themselves to these unorthodox events are sincere in celebrating Ash Wednesday.

[Image from Tim via Flickr]