Ashes to Go, Cheap Grace?

An email yesterday from the director of communications of the Diocese of New York asked if we were having “ashes to go” on Ash Wednesday. I replied that ashes were administered in the church throughout the day, from 8 am to 7 pm.

I recognize that this is stretching the rules; the Book of Common Prayer only allows ashes to be given within the context of the special liturgy for Ash Wednesday. Indeed, our local Roman Catholic Church has posted a sign that ashes will only be distributed during the three masses of the day “following church law.”

Even so, the idea of “ashes to go” is troubling. Ashes are a sign of penitence and mortality–surely not subjects to be linked with drive-through lines for coffee and hamburgers. Surely, anyone seeking to remember that he or she “is dust and to dust shall return” can take a minute to enter the church to receive the ashes. They might even have another minute to pray before and after that event.

Going out on the sidewalk and randomly dabbing passers-by with ashes is the latest attempt by Episcopal churches to attract attention and members. I wonder if it is a step in the right direction. —J. Douglas Ousley

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One Response to “Ashes to Go, Cheap Grace?”

  1. Chris Stromee says:

    This idea is beyond being witless and “pedestrian”. It doesn’t even get the recipients into church!

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