NewburyportNews.com, Newburyport, MA

Local News

February 21, 2012

Church to begin Lent with ashes to go

AMESBURY — Each morning, you can get your coffee to go. Tomorrow, on Ash Wednesday, you can also get your ashes to go.

The Rev. Susan Esco Chandler of St. James Episcopal Church will be standing outside the stone church in downtown Amesbury tomorrow morning to offer ashes to anyone who wants them.

"I have members that can't make it to service in the evening or during the day because of either work or family obligations," Esco Chandler said. "I wanted to do something in the morning where they could drop by on their way to work."

The tradition of receiving ashes to mark the first day of Lent goes back hundreds of years, but ashes to go marks a new movement in the Episcopal church.

Six years ago, the pastor of an Episcopal church in St. Louis, Mo., took to the streets on the morning of Ash Wednesday to offer the imposition of ashes to the public.

Today, more and more priests are doing the same thing.

In Chicago, Episcopal priests visit train stations to offer ashes to commuters. The ashes-to-go concept is also in cities like New York and San Francisco.

While not as large, Amesbury's version is expected to draw plenty of foot traffic from the morning commute.

This is the first time Esco Chandler, who has been at St. James since 2006, will be offering ashes to go.

She plans to stand outside the church on Main Street beginning at 7 a.m. and stay outside for at least an hour. Along with the ashes, she plans to offer prayers and be available to people.

The regular Ash Wednesday service at St. James will be held at 7 p.m. with a liturgy and celebration of Holy Communion.

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