St. Benedict did “Ashes to Go” again this year – we offer ashes and a prayer of confession to passers by, since so many people have become too busy for their spiritual lives, and because we believe church shouldn’t stay contained inside the four walls of a building. We were out from 6-9 a.m. We wave to people from the sidewalk and median, and we smudge and pray with people right in their cars.
It’s very suburban – we live in a car centered landscape, and people are always rushing about, separated from one another. So, we believe this is the work of the gospel – to meet people on the streets, in their cars, where they live, and bring God’s love and a chance to repent TO them. (It’s very John the Baptist of us, really. Although I can’t say we baptized anybody this time! It was 20 degrees, after all.) A car is actually a very personal, intimate space – praying with someone in their car is almost like visiting them at home.
For more details and some stories of individuals, here is my post from last year about “Ashes to Go.” It can be controversial – some feel it’s a cheapening of the rite and the day, but in our experience, it’s only people who are profoundly moved and hungry for it who take time out of their day to drive up and let strangers pray with them and touch their forehead. And many people told us they hadn’t been to church or “done this” is a very long time. We were glad to offer them an open window back into Christian community and spiritual practice.
Here are some more photos of the morning.