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Stories and images from Ashes to Go 2013
"'Ashes to Go?' No way!" exclaimed one commuter with delight, upon exiting Newark Penn Station to see Bishop Mark Beckwith and the Rev. Laurie Wurm distributing ashes just outside. "My friend said you'd be here," said another as she got in line to receive. "I got ashes from you here last year," said a third, who after receiving ashes produced a pocket camera and asked to be photographed with Bishop Beckwith and Rev. Wurm.
A number of congregations engaged the world with Ashes to Go across our diocese. Following are some of their photos and stories.
"I feel so blessed to have been given the opportunity to be missional. Everyone I met yesterday was so warm and welcoming and were very appreciative of the work we were doing. What really touched me is that a young man who runs the coffee shop at the Glen Ridge station gave us a very welcome hot cup of coffee free of charge. Although he did not receive ashes that did not make a difference, it was just his simple act of kindness which helped me know that what we were doing was what God wanted me to do."
-- David Drislane, Christ Church in Bloomfield/Glen Ridge
"To all the community and all participants in Ashes To Go, it was yet another time to reflect on what we are sent to do as members of the church: Serve the community. Doing it for the second year was more of a reflection of the first time however, easier to react to the individuals that passed by us, both those interested who received ashes and those who just appreciated that we were able to do it. One particular incident is when a friend got off the train and mentioned to me that she thought ashes were for Catholics only and that's why she never participated and I told her no it was not true. She then accepted the fact and I applied the Ashes on her. Great to also have had the company of Clara Mitchell who was doing it for the first time."
-- Emmanuel Wakhata, Christ Church in Bloomfield/Glen Ridge
"It was an opportunity to serve others by doing Christ’s work in our neighborhood! One of the gentleman that we encountered yesterday who was running to catch the morning train passed us and then turned quickly around and came to us for ashes. He said that he was going to wait until the evening to receive them but decided to stop and receive them here and now because “I might not be here tonight.” His statement made me realize that the presence of God, Christ, and the Holy Spirit are at work with us in the present moment. We cannot change the past and we can only influence the future. But this moment that we are living is what Christ calls and challenges us to change."
-- Len Roberts, Christ Church in Bloomfield/Glen Ridge
"When you give people what they need, you too are fulfilled!"
-- Pam DeLuca, Christ Church in Bloomfield/Glen Ridge
"I am a little light-headed after a wonderful time at our 'Ashes To Go' station, in Glen Ridge. Weather permitting, I will be there again next year!"
-- Clara Mitchell, Christ Church in Bloomfield/Glen Ridge
"I had someone say, 'Wow! Do you know how many years it’s been since I’ve received ashes?' and she started to walk away. But then she turned and came back. Is that not what Lent is about?"
-- The Rev. Anne Koehler, Christ Church in Bloomfield/Glen Ridge
"My invitation was simple: 'I'm giving out ashes for Ash Wednesday, if you'd like them.' My first passerby, an elderly woman named 'Sissy' said 'Yes, saves me a trip!' That wasn't what I wanted to hear, and I was simultaneously glad she received them but also worried about her not attending a community celebration at her church. I also met a couple who introduced themselves as born-again Christians who were deacons in their church in Staten Island (a two hour drive from Phillipsburg). They were here visiting a friend in the hospital and said, 'I'm a ‘Christian'- can I still receive?' 'Yes, absolutely,' I said, and I placed ashes on them. They told me their home had been completely destroyed from top to bottom in Superstorm Sandy. I told them we'd be praying for them and asked them to pray for us. It was a chance encounter that beautifully connected to very different and distant congregations. My favorite response to me was 'I'm not Catholic.' 'I'm not either!' I'd quip, and they would or wouldn't receive them. Maybe just showing that ashes on Ash Wednesday isn't a Roman Catholic exclusive was worth the time for Ashes to Go.
"My most moving interaction was with a woman who said, 'I don't observe, so I don't think I should.' I responded that it was up to her, but that it was absolutely appropriate if she desired it. She received them and said 'Bless you' to me."
-- The Rev. Tom Mathews, St. Luke's Church in Phillipsburg
“A somewhat different twist on Ashes to Go: as a chaplain in Barnabas Hospice and Palliative Care Center, I gave ashes to over thirty staff members. All through the early morning and then the afternoon they came to my cubby, I read from the BCP and helped to inspire them for a holy Lenten season. There were many smiles and words of gratitude.”
-- Deacon Lynn Czarniecki
“’Remember you are dust, and to dust you shall return…’
“These words are still on my lips as we return from giving ashes to about seventy commuters at the Station in town. It was a very different experience this year, standing out in the breaking dawn, with Deacon Kathleen Ballard and a few of our parishioners. People were very much more receptive to the idea of Ashes to Go, many stopping to receive, some commenting about it in a positive way, all receiving our blessing to ‘have a blessed day’ with good grace. Last year we broke new ground as we joined the national movement Ashes to Go, and took the ashes out of the church and met the people where they were; this year, we were sought out. Some came specially to find us, the publicity, it seems, worked. But above all, the most powerful part was the prompt to ‘remember.’ Hearing the words ‘remember you are dust, and to dust you shall return,’ seeing others with heads bowed, elicited memories and stirrings in many. Even those who were of other faiths, noticed us, and respected what we were about. These are powerful symbols. We gave witness to the power of Christ in the world this morning, imposing ashes on many, but stirring the hearts of hundreds more to remember God for a moment. For sure the Holy Spirit was present, I was truly touched and stirred by that power, are you?”
-- The Rev. Sheelagh A. Clarke of St. Stephen’s Church in Millburn