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Liverpool churches offer Ash Wednesday ministry outside of the sanctuary

Rev. Garrett Anderson, pastor of Liverpool First Presbyterian Church, provides Ash Wednesday services outside Nichols in the village.

Rev. Garrett Anderson, pastor of Liverpool First Presbyterian Church, provides Ash Wednesday services outside Nichols in the village. Susan Farnsworth

— At 7 a.m. outside Café 407 in Liverpool, Reverend Carrie Schofield-Broadbent of St. Matthew’s Episcopal Church dished out an early dose of spirituality, free of charge.

In a technological era emphasizing immediacy and instant gratification, fitting in Sunday mass poses a challenge to the workingman’s overtime schedule. Finding the moments for spiritual reflection on a Wednesday can be even more difficult.

Ashes To Go brings spirituality to the streets, allowing Christians to commemorate the holiday while maintaining their busy schedules.

“People were very excited to see us out there,” said Reverend Garrett Anderson of Liverpool Presbyterian Church. “We gave ashes to a lot of people who weren’t going to make it into church that day.”

In 2010, three Chicago-based Episcopal congregations faithfully carried out Ash Wednesday services beyond the confines of their stained-glass church windows. According to ashestogo.org, by 2012 the practice gained national attention in more than 80 churches across 21 states.

On Ash Wednesday of last year, Anderson and Broadbent decided to plan and bring the practice to Liverpool.

Forty-six days before Easter, Ash Wednesday marks the beginning of lent for Methodists, Catholics, Episcopalians and Lutherans alike, among other denominations of Christianity.

“I ran into a lot of people from different Christian traditions who were interested in having ashes and a little prayer,” said Broadbent. “They really liked their experience.”

Rev. Anderson said he gave ashes to more than 25 people outside Nichols Market.

“It’s for people who are going about their daily lives and might not have been able to make it to church,” said Anderson. “So we mark people’s foreheads or hands with the cross in ashes out on the streets.”

Ash Wednesday is a time of self-reflection and prayer through the remembrance of the death of Jesus Christ.

While the message of the holiday remains the same, the method of outreach brings on new spiritual encounters.

“We met up with a lot of different people in the community,” said Broadbent. “Some of them who probably don’t have a church or who were interested in connecting with the tradition of ashes, maybe from their childhood.”

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