Thursday, February 14, 2013
Why I Disagree with “Ashes to Go”
On Ash Wednesday, a number of Episcopal Churches across the country embraced the innovative practice of distributing ashes in public settings – in parks, plazas and on the streets of cities with most using the catchy title "Ashes to Go".
In Pittsburgh the Episcopal Bishop Dorsey McConnell and the clergy of Trinity Cathedral took their ashes to Market Square. The Diocese promoted this practice with a trendy video on the front page of their website. Click here.
This morning local Episcopal blogger Dr. Jim Simons gathered and posted links of news coverage from around the country of Episcopal Churches that offered ashes in this way. Click here http://3riversepiscopal.blogspot.com/2013/02/more-ashes-to-go-coverage.html
Yesterday the Pittsburgh Post Gazette offered this. Click here
The blog Episcopal Café covered the practice too, going as far as calling it a means of “Episcopal evangelism.” Click here
One of my parishioners asked me about 10 days ago if I were going to do “drive-by ashes” this year on the main street corner in Canonsburg. I politely declined her appeal to do so. Click here.
I find the practice of applying ashes to someone’s forehead willy-nilly on the street to be repugnant, demeaning, and impersonal. It is taking totally out of context the solemn liturgy that calls for repentance of sin and amendment of life. To me it can be likened to the difference of receiving cash from an ATM machine and receiving cash from a human bank teller. And cheapens the seriousness of it all. It reminds of that other uniquely Episcopal innovation, The Clown Eucharist.
One of my colleagues told me that the main Roman Catholic Church in downtown Pittsburgh has a somewhat similar practice. You enter the church on the front street entrance receive your ashes right inside the door, walk down the side aisle and exit out the entrance on the side street – as if you were going through the drive-thru window at the local fast food emporium -- "you're in, you're out, that's what McDonalds is all about!" This isn’t a whole lot different than Ashes to Go on the street. And I would hardly call either the method used by the Romans or the Episcopalians evangelistic.