Ashes are an ancient sign of penitence. From the Middle Ages it became the custom to begin Lent by being marked in ash with the sign of the cross. The reminder that we are dust turns our attention to the creative power of God, and Godís ability to heal the brokenness in our lives when we offer that brokenness to God. That turning to God is the work of Lent, preparation for the celebration of Easter.
We take ashes to the street corner because that reminder of need, humility, and healing shouldnít be confined to a church building. We probably need it more when we are in the middle of our daily business! The ashes we receive are to remind us throughout the day of our need for God, and of Godís call to us.
There is much more to the beginning of Lent than ashes alone, and we encourage you to make time for worship with a community of faith, for the support of others and of the great traditions of faith in our work of repentance and renewal. But God meets us not just in worship, but in the midst of life, and we offer the opportunity to remember our faith to those whose schedules make it hard to stop and pray with others on a busy Wednesday.
Linked location names will open a Google map of the location, sponsoring church names are italicized and link to the church's website.
Follow this link for a list of locations in Washington, DC and the surrounding counties in Maryland (Diocese of Washington).
Many of our churches offer services on Ash Wednesday. Follow this link to our church locator.
Thinking about taking to the streets on Ash Wednesday? Look no further for inspiration than http://ashestogo.org/. Any location where there may be lots of foot traffic is ideal. Train stations, light rail stops, park-and-ride lots, even a busy street corner in a downtown business center. Offer handout on meaning of Ash Wednesday, information on your parish with service times and Lenten program offerings. Many parishes have new members since participating in Ashes to Go. Yours could be one of those next year.
Ashes to Go: Tips for Liturgical Outreach
ECF Vital Practives, by the Rev. Emily Mellott