Several Portland-area Episcopal clergy and laypeople will take the traditional Ash Wednesday practice of the imposition of ashes from inside of church buildings out to the people on the streets of Portland, Windham, and Falmouth.
On Wednesday, February 13, Ashes-to-Go will be available to all who wish the imposition of ashes and a brief blessing in Portland at Monument Square from 9:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. and at Post Office Park from 9:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m.; in Windham at the Windham Post Office parking log on Route 302 from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.; and in Falmouth at the Pratt and Abbot Dry Cleaners parking lot on Route 1 from 7 a.m. to 9 a.m.
A little farther afield, the Rev. Sudie Blanchard, chaplain at York Hospital will offer Ashes-to-Go there from 1 to 2 p.m. and again from 9 to 10 p.m.
In 2012 the Rev. Larry Weeks, rector of Trinity Episcopal Church on Forest Avenue who also serves as priest at St. Peter’s Episcopal Church on Washington Avenue, invited several clergy from area congregations to join him in sharing ashes at the two Portland locations. The clergy, fully-vested, planted a sign and then offered the ashes and a brief blessing to about 120 people between the two locations.
Weeks described one of the encounters, “A man in an expensive business suit walked by quickly, glanced at sign and us and kept going. Then he circled back slowly and approached and when he was in front of me, had tears in his eyes and said haltingly, ‘It’s been so… long.’”
Last year the Rev. Tim Higgins, rector of St. Ann’s Episcopal Church in Windham, traveled to Portland to participate. This year he and Deacon Wendy Rozene will be stationed closer to home. Higgins described his experience in 2012 as “one of the coolest ministries I have even been involved with.” He added, “A jogger came through and stopped long enough to pray with us, receive his ashes and continue on his jog, while saying, ‘I’ve never done that before, thanks so much!’”
Episcopalians in Chicago, St. Louis, New York, San Francisco, Seattle, Baltimore, Newark, Erie, Austin and many other cities and suburbs will take ashes to the streets tomorrow. The practice started with a priest offering Ashes-to-Go at a commuter rail station in the Episcopal Diocese of Chicago in 2007. It caught on and is working its way across the country.
Weeks added, “In Chicago they found that many people had forgotten that it was Ash Wednesday and welcomed the opportunity to receive ashes and a blessing. Last year we found the same thing in Portland and are glad for the opportunity to share this again and with people in a wider area. It’s high time we venture outside our church walls to offer hope and forgiveness and healing to people who may still have a spiritual hunger but aren’t so sure about Church.”
In addition to those mentioned above, others involved to offer Ashes-to-Go include: the Rev. Nathan Ferrill of St. Mary the Virgin, Falmouth; Dean Ben Shambaugh and the Rev. Suzanne Roberts of St. Luke’s Cathedral, Portland, Dibbie Appleton, Trinity, Portland; the Rev. Regina Knox, Diocesan Urban Missioner; the Rev. Shirley Bowen, Seeds of Hope Neighborhood Center, Biddeford; the Rev. Dick Rasner, St. Ann’s, Windham; and the Rev. Nina Pooley, St. Bart’s, Yarmouth.