Ash Wednesday’s outdoor Imposition of Ashes saw hundreds of people reached in the place where they were at-both physically and spiritually. They were greeted by several clergy throughout the day in three different locations. Some came for prayer; for discussion about the meaning of Ashes regardless of their religious backgrounds; and some came to talk about how the events in the Ukraine have affected them. Some came to thank the clergy for what they were doing even if they didn’t receive the Imposition of Ashes.
In the words of Dean Christopher A. Pappas, “many were looking for an encounter and many were looking to be encountered where they were at.” Dean Chris went on to say that it is our calling to be present in the world and the community in the “midst”. On Wednesday, this was in the midst of work, and travel. It was also in the “midst” as those passing by took a break to mark the day and to acknowledge the events, emotions and anticipations of this time. He emphasized that as congregants regain comfort with physically returning to the Cathedral, or as we build connections with those who have yet to attend, the Ashes to Go event reduced barriers and brought Lent into the life of the community instead of expecting those in the community to fit their lives into Lent.
This led to many endearing stories of bell hops from the nearby hotel popping over on breaks; people shouting from trucks as they drove by to thank the priests administering the Imposition of Ashes; meaningful Interfaith discussions; and shift workers being met in their place of need. As Pappas noted, it was a different dynamic and demographic than the current group that attends the Cathedral, in fact it was more intergenerational and diverse, but “these are the future of the church!”