On the first day of the season of Lent, Fort Worth Christians came before their priests to receive the sign of the cross, marked in ashes across their foreheads.
Sandwiched between Fat Tuesday and Valentine’s Day this year, Ash Wednesday undoubtedly comes on a busy week. Combined with the busy routine of people’s lives, sometimes it’s difficult to make a specific mass or service.
Trinity Episcopal Church had the solution to that.
For the first time, according to Communications Manager Sarah Martinez, Trinity offered Ashes to Go.
“It is not a new practice, however,” said Martinez.
In an article featured in USA Today last year, Ashes to Go started in St. Louis in 2007 by Reverend Teresa K.M. Danieley.
"It started sort of half-jokingly, but it became something pretty profound," Danieley said.
Since 2007, Ashes to Go has spread to many Episcopal parishes.
“The main reason why this started was to reach people directly—recognizing the hustle and bustle of an average day,” Martinez said.
Trinity offered Ashes to Go for a two-hour window (7 a.m. to 9 a.m.) and around 10 people stopped in. Dozens more saw what was going on as they drove by on Bellaire Drive.
Martinez said it likely helped boost attendance at the Ash Wednesday services held throughout the rest of the day.
Taylor Garza, a junior Sports Broadcasting major at TCU, said she hadn't heard of Ashes to Go.
Choosing to go to mass before her 6 p.m. night class, Garza also said “I will say I've noticed more people who aren't Catholic coming to get ashes at mass. I think others outside the church are finding ashes as a way of professing their faith.”
When studying Ash Wednesday history, ashes are often considered to be a symbol of man's mortality and represent an attitude of humility, sorrow, and repentance (Genesis 18:27). The ashes used in the Ash Wednesday ritual come from burning the palm branches used to celebrate Palm Sunday of the previous year.
In the Catholic Church, Ash Wednesday is observed by fasting, abstinence from meat, and repentance. The Anglican Book of Common Prayer also designates Ash Wednesday as a day of fasting.
In other Christian denominations these practices are optional, with the main focus being on repentance.
Martinez said, “You'll notice that one of the photos on our Facebook page shows a school nurse in scrubs. Ashes to Go allowed her to start the Lenten season—to pause and reflect—and then head to work.”
Photos courtesy of Trinity Episcopal Church.