As Christians get ready to observe Ash Wednesday by attending worship services that involve the imposition of ashes on their forehead in the shape of a cross, one Episcopal diocese will be taking the ritual outside its church walls.
In an observance known as “Ashes to Go,” The Episcopal Diocese of Washington will have churches helping to provide the ash crosses at various points in the Washington, D.C., area on Wednesday.
Locations where one can receive the Ash Wednesday cross will include metro stations and assorted church properties, listed here.
J. Keely Thrall, spokesperson for the Washington Diocese, told The Christian Post that Ashes to Go was “designed to bring a moment of grace to where the people are living their lives out in the community.”
“We live in an increasingly busy world where folks are stressed and overscheduled, and the idea of adding one more thing feels like the proverbial straw breaking the camel's back,” explained Thrall.
“From coffee shops to Metro stations to school parking lots, church leaders in the Episcopal Diocese of Washington offer ashes, prayer, and an intentional spiritual connection to all who wish to partake in this modern expression of an ancient practice.”
Thrall explained that Ashes to Go will be available for those who cannot find a time to attend an Ash Wednesday service in the middle of a busy week.
“We hope people will experience God's love and welcome, and that they can carry God's love with them in their daily lives,” she added.
The Washington Diocese first held an Ashes to Go in 2013, with the congregations often serving at the same busy location each year.
Ash Wednesday marks the beginning of the season on the liturgical calendar known as Lent, which is observed by many Christian churches.
Usually, Ash Wednesday involves a worship service centered on spiritual discipline and a reminder that everyone will eventually die.
A key part of this observance involves palm branches from last year's Palm Sunday being burned to ashes and then placed in the form of a cross on a person's forehead.
The diocese’s Ashes to Go event is not the only way in which Ash Wednesday is being observed outside of a church service.
Munholland United Methodist Church of Metairie, Louisiana, annually oversees a “Drive Thru Ashes” event in which people can drive their cars into the church parking lot and receive prayer and ashes in that manner.
The Rev. Tim Smith of Munholland UMC told The Christian Post in an interview in 2016 that the event was “about taking the church into the community and meeting people where they are.”
“Many of the people who came through were on their way to or from work or unable to attend services at their church,” Smith said at the time.
“They wanted to 'start their day' with the observance of Lent and the marking of ashes. It's a reflection of the still strong spiritual hunger and desire still very much a part of people's lives.”