For centuries, Christians have marked the start of the holy season of Lent by receiving ashen crosses smudged on their foreheads with a palm leaf. This cross of ashes serves as a reminder of mortal failings and as an invitation to receive God’s forgiveness.
This tradition might strike people in a couple ways. For those who grew up in a church that practiced this, perhaps the tradition can seem ritualistic and trivial. Or, on the other hand, to the unchurched or to those whose church of origin did not practice this tradition, it might just seem downright odd to see a bunch of people walking around on a day in late winter with crosses smudged on their foreheads.
At Ginghamsburg Church, we have been trying to overcome both perceptions. By offering “Ashes to Go” in downtown Dayton, we hope to imbue the centuries-old tradition with new life and to help make sense of it for those unfamiliar with the practice and its meaning.
On Ash Wednesday, March 1st, we will take part in a movement of clergy and lay people who are visiting transit stops, street corners, coffee shops, and college campuses across the country to mark the foreheads of interested passers-by with ashes.
“Ashes to Go” is about bringing spirit, belief, and a sense of belonging out from behind church walls, and into the places where we go every day. By going where the people are, we can provide the opportunity to participate in this tradition to people who have lost their connection to a church or who have never participated before. The ashes invite their wearers into a time of reflection, repentance, and renewal in preparation for the celebration of Easter.
As people’s lives get busier, the church needs to show up in new ways. People need the church for reminders of forgiveness in the tough places of their working lives. Those who accept ashes on the street are often longing to make a connection between their faith and the forces of daily life, and “Ashes to Go” helps them feel that connection.
Ashes to Go will take place at Courthouse Square in downtown Dayton from 11 a.m. to 1:30 p.m., March 1st. In addition to offering ashes and prayers, the church is offering blessing bags filled with useful items for the homeless.
If you are local, we invite you to gather with friends, family, and life group members to donate warm wool socks, waterproof gloves, band-aids, deodorant, chapstick, wet wipes, beef jerky, peanut butter crackers, dried fruit, snack cups, mints, water, and gallon-size Ziplock bags. All donations can be dropped off
at Ginghamsburg Church, 6759 S. Co. Rd. 25A, Tipp City, by Friday, February 24. If you would like to make monetary donations or get involved, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or 937.667.1069.