On Ash Wednesday, several churches from the Chattanooga area will offer an ecumenical “Ashes to Go,” a new approach to a centuries-old Christian tradition, from noon to 2 p.m. in multiple locations across Chattanooga’s downtown, beginning with a short noon service in front of the Hamilton County Courthouse.
Churches representing a number of traditions, including the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), the Episcopal Church, the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), the United Church of Christ, and several others are participating in a 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 repent of past wrongdoing and seek forgiveness and renewal.
In the Christian tradition, Ash Wednesday marks the start of the holy season of Lent, a time for reflection and repentance 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 a reminder of human mortality and an invitation to receive God’s forgiveness. Ashes to Go provides the opportunity to participate in that tradition for people who have lost their connection to a church, or have never participated before.
“Ashes to Go is about bringing the important traditions of our faith out from behind church walls and into the places we need them every day,” said Rev. Brandon Gilvin of First Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), which offered ashes to passers-by on Ash Wednesday in 2016. “As people get busier and busier, we need the church in new and non-traditional ways. We especially need reminders of forgiveness in the tough places of our working 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.
“We were thrilled when our colleagues from across the ecumenical spectrum decided to join us this year. In a time when we hear relentless reports about how divided we are as a nation and culture, it’s even more important that we gather to remember our shared human-ness and connection to God.”
Contact Rev. Brandon Gilvin, email@example.com or (317) 835-1275 for more information about Chattanooga’s “Ashes to Go” stations. More information about the Ashes to Go movement can be found at www.AshesToGo.org.