Anglicans Online banner More about the gryphon
Independent On the web since 1994 More than 250,000 readers More than 32,000 links Updated every Sunday
Will you help support
Anglicans Online?

The Paypal logotype

Noted This Week
Sites new to AO

News Centre
News archive

News flash: a summary of the top headlines
Find us on Facebook Follow us on Twitter Follow us by email
Be notified each week

Start here
Anglicans believe...
The Prayer Book
The Bible

Read letters to AO
Write to us

Resources A to Z

World Anglicanism
Anglican Communion
In full communion
Not in the Communion

Dioceses and Parishes
Hong Kong
New Zealand

South Africa
Sri Lanka

Vacancies Centre
List a vacancy
Check openings worldwide

Add a site or link to AO
Add a site to AO
Link to AO

About Anglicans Online
Back issues
About our logo
Our search engine


Hallo again to all.

It was just over five years ago that Ashes to Go became a form of Ash Wednesday observance in parts of the urban and suburban First World. Begun (as far as we know) in Chicago in 2010, Ashes to Go (or Ashes Take-Away) seems to echo the frequent call to 'meet people where they are.' The effort was coordinated in 2012 and started a movement that is now on three continents. Rather than in churches, Ashes to Go/Ashes Take-Away brings one of the most solemn days of the church year to train stations and bus depots, to parks, street corners, and coffee shops. Organizers have written of recipients—often those who couldn't find time to go to church or those who had forgotten or fallen out of the habit of attending services on Ash Wednesday—breaking down in tears and with smiles of gratitude and thankfulness.

The traditional imposition of ashes goes back to the Middle Ages. Even older however, is the invitation to a Holy Lent. Dating back to our earliest prayer book, we are reminded that 'in the primitive Church, there was a godly discipline, that at the beginning of Lent, such persons as stood convicted of notorious sin, were put to open penance, and punished in this world, that their souls might be saved in the day of the Lord: And that others admonished by their example, might be the more afraid to offend.'

The Ash Wednesday service then reminds us
Instead whereof, untill the said discipline may be restored again, (which is much to be wished) it is thought good, that at this time (in the presence of you all) should be read the generall sentences of Gods cursing against impenitent sinners, gathered out of the seven and twentith Chapter of Deuteronomy, and other places of Scripture; and that ye should answer to every Sentence, Amen: to the intent that being admonished of the great indignation of God against Sinners, ye may the rather be moved to earnest and true repentance, and may walke more warily in these dangerous dayes, fleeing from such vices, for which ye affirm with your own mouthes, the curse of God to be due.

We pray that God 'who hatest nothing that thou hast made and dost forgive the sins of all them that are penitent; Create and make in us new and contrite hearts, that we, worthily lamenting our sins, and acknowledging our wretchedness, may obtain of thee, the God of all mercy, perfect remission and forgiveness'.

The name of Ashes to Go/Ashes Take-Away alone leaves us with a bad taste in our mouths. We hesitate to consider most take-aways actual food, much less something nourishing or something that brings us to a fuller, repentant life. Indeed it is not the ashes imposed on our head themselves that moves us most on Ash Wednesday but the kneeling, the confession, and focus paired with the reminder of the impermanence of our human bodies.

We know of clergy who have tried to merge the two—having short services every half-hour or so while at the train station, bus depot, or coffee shop to try to contextualize the imposition of ashes with the making new of those with contrite hearts, ensuring that those with whom they pray don't fall to 'looking like the hypocrites'. Perhaps, for those who are starving, even a take-away will calm their hunger. We wonder though, if that taste will bring them to a desire for fuller, more nourishing food or if will leave them happy for the taste of take-away. Ashes to Go/Ashes Take-Away has touched many as a meaningful first step—a form of evangelism that can bring people home, if only we can figure out what that next step is. Is there a way to lead this to the kind of stable and sustained worship and formation so important to us?

Today is also St Valentine's Day. Though the church calendar lists it as the feast of Saints Cyril and Methodius, cards, flowers, and chocolates are exchanged between those in love with each other and ice cream is eaten alone in front of the telly of those who are not. Many advertise it as 'singles awareness day'. It is, regardless, the celebration of one or several Roman martyrs by the name of Valentinus, at least one of whom was beheaded. It is also a celebration of human love. St Valentine's Day is also one of the few times of the year (along with St Patrick's Day) that the unchurched or those in less 'liturgical' traditions utter the word 'Saint' when not referring to a location (St Andrews, Scotland).  

How do we use these momentary moments of evangelism to bring sustained worship and formation to those in the world, as a nourshing meal rather than take-away or ice cream in front of the telly?

See you next week.

Our Signatures

All of us at Anglicans Online

14 February 2016

A thin blue line
This web site is independent. It is not official in any way. Our editorial staff is private and unaffiliated. Please contact about information on this page. ©2015 Society of Archbishop Justus
. Please address all spam to