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Blessings to Go

Bishop Beckwith receives a blessing from a man he has just blessed.

Last Thursday, May 1, which happened to coincide with the National Day of Prayer, Canon Greg Jacobs, Nina Nicholson (our Director of Communications) and I walked down to Penn Station in Newark to offer “Blessings to Go.” Greg held the sign, Nina took the pictures and I offered blessings with oil. For an hour, we stood inside the concourse as hordes of people made the necessary transportation connections to start their day.

On Ash Wednesday, when we stood in the same place, the sign generated an immediate symbolic connection for people – and nearly two hundred people came forward for ashes. Last week, the ‘blessings’ sign generated a bit more consternation than connection (as if people were more ready to be reminded that they are dust than they are willing to be blessed); but we received many smiles, heard several expressions of thanks – and a few people took our picture. Several dozen people came forward for a blessing. A security officer worried that he might get in trouble if he received the prayer while on duty. I told him he certainly wouldn’t get in trouble with me – nor did I think that God (or his boss) would mind. So he removed his hat and received the blessing. Another man insisted on reciprocating – so he blessed me.

At noon, Greg and I went next door and offered blessings to the hundred or so people who stood in the soup line. The place and people are more familiar, and maybe because of that their expressions of gratitude were deeper. Almost every one of the two dozen people who came forward for a blessing said “I am blessed” before I even had a chance to anoint their foreheads.

After now having developed a bit of a rhythm of offering blessings – with ashes for the past three years – and now with oil, I continue to have an appreciation for people’s desire to be blessed. But I am also developing a greater awareness for how God is at work in the world – at the train station, in the soup line – wherever and whenever we encounter the world.

I am thinking about how God is at work as my wife and I prepare to make a contribution to the Alleluia Fund for Outreach. The 35 non-profits that the Alleluia Fund supports certainly need our funds. All of them are small operations, which means that none of them have a fund development department. Our gifts can and do have an impact – as the testimonies presented on our web site during this Easter season attest. But more than that, my contribution – your contribution, is an act of blessing, and yet another way that we can join with God in God’s work in the world.


I think it's great to offer blessings on the go, but people have to be open to receiving. I believe that there may be guilt for some in that perhaps they think it's selfish to ask for prayers or be blessed ... We knew a woman who had died of breast cancer and a few months before her death we'd asked her if she ever prayed for herself. She said, "Oh no, that is not something I would consider." This made us sad because we felt she could have tapped into more joy, calm and comfort if she could have allowed herself this grace.

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