While Blizzard Nemo caused churches across the state to cancel services this Sunday, two local churches will be partnering together this week to bring Ash Wednesday into the streets. On Ash Wednesday, February 13, St. Mark’s Episcopal Chapel in Storrs and St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Willimantic will be offering “Ashes to Go,” a new approach to a centuries-old Christian tradition, at four public locations in Storrs and Willimantic:
8-8:30 Starbucks Coffee in Storrs (1244 Storrs Rd )
10-11 UConn Student Union (2110 Hillside Rd in Storrs)
11-11:30 Covenant Soup Kitchen (220 Valley Street in Willimantic)
7-7:30 The No Freeze Shelter (1110 Main Street in Willimantic)
St. Paul’s and St. Mark’s are part of a new nationwide movement that has clergy and lay people visiting transit stops, street corners, coffee shops, and college campuses to mark the foreheads of interested passers-by with ashes and invite them to recognize that “it is God who created you, and to God you return.”
In the Christian tradition, Ash Wednesday marks the start of the holy season of Lent, a time for reflection on the current state of our relationship with God in preparation for the celebration of Easter. For centuries, Christians have received a cross of ashes on the face at the beginning of that season as an invitation to receive God’s forgiveness. Ashes to Go provides the opportunity for all people to participate in that tradition.
“Ashes to Go is about meeting people where they are, bringing the life-affirming traditions of our faith out from behind church walls and into the places we need them every day,” says the Rev. Jaci Shelton, priest at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Willimantic. “The hectic nature of life in the 21st century means that we need the church in new and non-traditional ways,” adds the Rev. Hilary Greer, priest at St. Mark’s Chapel in Storrs and the diocesan chaplain to the University of Connecticut. “Church isn’t a building – it’s a community that points us to where God is present in every moment of our lives. The people who accept ashes on the street are often people longing to make a connection between their faith and the forces of daily life, and Ashes to Go helps them feel that connection.”
In Storrs and Willimantic, St. Mark’s and St. Paul’s Churches are offering Ashes to Go for the first time this year. The churches will also continue to offer traditional Ash Wednesday Eucharists, in which all people (regardless of religious background) are invited to take part in communion or come forward for a blessing as they prefer. St. Mark’s at 42 North Eagleville Road in Storrs will hold its Ash Wednesday Eucharist at noon. St. Paul’s at 220 Valley Street in Willimantic will hold its services at noon and 6:00pm. All are welcome.
Contact the Rev. Hilary Greer, email@example.com, (860) 429-2647 or (917) 566-8463 for more information about Ashes to Go. More information about the Ashes to Go movement can be found at www.AshesToGo.org