To Go or Not To Go?

In short the answer is “Go.”

My response to everyone that has asked me has been the same:  “I could have stayed out there all day.”  The question was about Ashes to Go.

So here’s the deal.  The location we chose wasn’t the best – a Metro stop would have been much better.  The weather didn’t cooperate.  IMG_7816It was cold, there was lots of snow on the ground and most people hurried by on their way to their destinations.

But we learned some things.  The most important was that just standing there wasn’t going to garner any customers.  We had to be more aggressive – to lean toward people and ask, “Would you like to receive ashes for Ash Wednesday?”  Most people’s ears were plugged with ear buds and walked on by as that old song goes.  I’d say about a hundred of them.  But about ten didn’t. And ten is a good number.  Ten was enough to keep God from destroying Sodom, anyway.  When the first person stopped and said, “Yes, I would,”  my heart leapt.  Even just one person receiving ashes would have made me glad.  With even one “yes” I would have thought the same: “I could stay out here all day…”  Never mind the 99, as Jesus said (Matthew 18.12-14).

Other things to know?  It’s interesting taking the church out into the world.  It makes you think more about what you are doing and saying and what that might mean in the world that is not surrounded by stained glass…  What does this sacrament offer to that world? Will/do the words mean that mean so much inside the church mean/do anything outside of it?

IMG_7817I had decided the night before to just trust the words. Not to come up with a script in order to explain them. If someone asked what the ashes meant I was prepared to say that the church wants you to remember that you are alive, thanks be to God.  But nobody asked. Most just passed by.  Except for those those ten.  One woman, who didn’t speak English and couldn’t understand what I was asking (as I stood begging with a plastic bowl of ashes in my hands) took out her purse and offered two dollars – alms.  Irony?

Next year I would like to be out there all day.  But should we wait that long?

Happy Monday,


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6 Responses to To Go or Not To Go?

  1. The context of ‘saved’ or ‘salvation’ isn’t actually very clear. You can want to be ‘saved’ in a kind of hype, or hokey way or it means something according to the Church doctrines. But the salvation that brings together the whole entirety of Scripture into one living body is something rare. “For many are called but few are chosen.” Many step up but few carry the cross. Fewer still know the cross that carries them.

  2. Danette Kauffman says:

    Doing God’s work. This is exciting stuff you’re leading.

    Danette (Dani) Gentile Kauffman

    202-258-9743, cell

  3. Christian says:

    What a great summary. What a story. What a revelation you had about taking faith outside the walls of a church. I am so proud that you showed the courage to do that. Well done.

  4. Bob Sellery says:

    Outstanding! Ten is a very good start. Maybe one will start coming to St. Alban’s. The $2 offering is very touching. Do it as often as you can. I guess you’ll have to think of something different than ashes. I’m sure with the creativity among you all, you’ll think of something.
    When I was with WSA, we kept wondering, with Jim’s help, how to improve outreach. You have it right there with this new “product,” just the three of you being a presence in the world. Happy Lent.

    Bob Sellery, Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida

  5. Eileen says:

    Great things begin small but the point is, they begin. Yes, near a Metro stop might work well. And conversation and listening to the ones who stop by —- listening’s as important as explaining, as you all know well I’m sure. Those ten went out and told ten others………great work!

  6. Kathy Morgan says:

    Last year I didn’t get to church on Ash Wednesday, but as I came out of Eastern Mkt Metro in the evening, there stood Cara Spaccarelli,rector of Christ Church Washington Parish, offering ashes. I was so grateful that she did that, and am equally grateful that Jim and Matt and the lay ministers did so on behalf of St. A’s this year.

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