On Wednesday, February 18, a group Episcopal clergy, including the Rt. Rev. Stephen T. Lane, Bishop of Maine, will brave the snow to 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, Brunswick, Lewiston, and Farmington.
Started by Episcopal clergy in Chicago in 2007, Ashes to Go marks its fourth year in Maine communities. First offered on a commuter rail platform, the practice has spread to dozens of cities across the U.S.
In Portland all who wish the imposition of ashes and a brief blessing are welcome at Monument Square from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Dean Ben Shambaugh and Deacon Dick Rasner of St. Luke’s Cathedral and the Rev. Larry Weeks will be on hand from 10 a.m. to noon. Bishop Stephen Lane will take the noon to 2 p.m. “shift” in full Bishop vestments (though maybe with a warm hat under his mitre.)
In Windham the Rev. Tim Higgins and Deacon Wendy Rozene of St. Ann’s Episcopal will offer Ashes to Go at the Windham Post Office parking lot on Route 302 from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.
In Farmington the Rev. Tim Walmer of St. Luke’s Episcopal in Wilton will offer Ashes to Go on Main Street near the Franklin Savings Bank from 12:15 to 1 p.m.
In Brunswick Deacon Chick Carroll of St. Paul’s Episcopal will offer Ashes to Go at 11 a.m. at the soup kitchen located at Midcoast Hunger Prevention on Union Street and at 1 p.m. in front of the Bowdoin College Chapel. The Rev. Carolyn Eklund and Deacon Mary Lee Wile will offer Ashes to Go from 11:45 a.m. to 1:15 p.m. in front of the Tontine Mall at the corner of Pleasant and Maine Streets.
In Lewiston, the Rev. Steven Crowson of Trinity Episcopal will offer Ashes to Go at Kennedy Park at the corner of Bates and Spruce from 11 to 11:30 a.m. From noon to 12:30 Ashes to Go will be available at the opposite end of the park across from City Hall.
The Rev. Tim Higgins, rector of St. Ann’s Episcopal Church in Windham, described his experience last year as “one of the coolest ministries I have ever 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!’”
Weeks added, “We found that many people had forgotten that it was Ash Wednesday and welcomed the opportunity to receive ashes and a blessing. 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.”