Recently the Tri Town Times interviewed Miriam about the "Ashes to Go" program.
Tri Town Times HAMPSTEAD - “Ashes to Go” is a national movement that brings the traditional ceremony of receiving ashes on Ash Wednesday out of the church setting and onto the streets, in an effort to make this church event available to more people and in an easier way.
In Hampstead last week, the Rev. Miriam Acevedo, St. Christopher’s Episcopal rector, took the first step in adopting her own version of Ashes to Go.
“I thought about going out to a busy intersection or town center but decided to present the concept to my own congregation first,” Rev. Acevedo said. “I will probably take it out to the street next Ash Wednesday, but this year I let my parishioners know I would be here at the church all day, prepared to provide ashes and prayer on their time table.”
She also offered a children’s Ash Wednesday service in the afternoon and a traditional service in the evening.
“Realizing that people, particularly older people, are less and less willing to come out at night, I thought this way of doing things might provide them with an alternative, a convenience if you will,” she said. “It is important for today’s church to adapt to the changing way of life and seek new ways to reach people. So before I actually go out into the town with Ashes on the Go, I thought I would provide my parish with this opportunity and see how it fits in with their needs. I know we have lots of busy moms and lots of elderly people who prefer not to drive at night so I thought this might prove to be a good alternative.”
The custom of starting Lent by receiving ashes to remind people that everyone returns to dust goes back hundreds of years. As the world has changed, clergy have recognized that attending a weekday service to receive ashes on Ash Wednesday is often not just difficult but impossible for many. Ashes to Go turns that recognition into a program that takes the ashes out of the church and into the streets, bringing the Ash Wednesday ministry to the people.
Ashes to Go began in Missouri in 2007 and accelerated in 2010 in Chicago. It is now a national outreach activity.
By days’ end Ash Wednesday, March 5, Rev. Acevedo had given ashes to a dozen people. She said providing a time for people to take a moment to turn their thoughts inward is an important part of Ash Wednesday and the preparation for Easter. She offered confession as well as ashes.
She said the Episcopal Church is trying to deal with changes in society and to address the needs of its parishioners. One way the church is doing that is looking at church buildings that are expensive to maintain and seeking alternatives, either through coalitions or by sharing priests or buildings to reduce the financial burden on parishioners as well as to meet their needs in a better way.
“The church is trying to find ways to deal with burdens and to put more emphasis on outreach and evangelism,” she said. “I am very much in favor of this approach.” With Ashes to Go, Rev. Acevedo hopes she will be better able to serve the needs of her parishioners, and if she takes the program to the street next, to anyone wishing to participate.