For Ash Wednesday on February 14th we are encouraging churches to take part in Ashes to Go. We spoke to Father Daniel Howard, Vicar at St Margaret's Orford about his experiences in Anfield and for some hints on how you can get involved in your context.
Ashes to Go has become increasingly popular with Christians across the world. By taking the ancient Lent tradition onto the streets and into the community churches are finding this as a great way to share the Christian story. Fr Daniel Howard, Vicar at St Margaret's Orford used this to great effect whilst a curate in Anfield.
This may be something to consider as we start the countdown to our Bishops in Mission events in 2019 so we spoke to Daniel about what it's about and how everyone could get involved.
What is Ashes to Go?
In the Gospels, Jesus calls people to share in his life, that means turning away from sin and being faithful to Christ. ‘Ashes to Go’ helps take that message into the communities in which we live and serve, we proclaim Jesus and his message and blessed ash (from last years Palm crosses) is traced on our head as a symbol of our repentance.
Why is it important and useful to do?
‘Ashes to Go’ is a useful thing to do as it allows the Church to connect with lots of people, often those with little or no experience of Church. It’s important because it encourages members of the church to be missionary disciples – proclaiming Christ to those who have never heard the Good News. It’s evangelism on the edge, at its best.
What has your experience of Ashes to Go been?
Incredible! I am surprised every time! It’s been very positive indeed, praying with and for people, planting seeds, telling people of Christ and perhaps exploring faith for the first time. All those who have participated are amazed too. When we do things for Christ, he blesses our work.
What does it take to prepare people for this - who should be involved and is it just for the clergy?
It takes very little time to prepare for this wonderful ministry. You need to make sure you have lots of leaflets ready to hand out, and that people can explain what’s going. I have some templates (see side panel) that can be adjusted to add details about your own Church and services. A good sized poster is also highly recommended, this often catches peoples eyes as they walk by. All people can and should be involved.
The clergy do the ashing, but the best conversations and the evangelism so often come from committed lay people who are willing to talk about their faith. Ashes to Go is a great piece of shared ministry – the clergy need the people and the people need the clergy, but there’s one common goal – to point people to Jesus.
What’s the reaction amongst the general public? You would think that it would be alien to many but is that the case?
In my experience the reaction has always been really good. I’ve never had a bad experience. Some of the general public will know what it’s about, others won’t and it’s often those people who ask: “what’s going on?” So often people will then respond positively, receive the ashes and take a leaflet.
Have you any stories of how people reacted and did it lead to people coming to church?
Absolutely – Ashes to Go has borne real fruit. People have come to Church occasionally based on their initial contact with us, which has been fantastic! Others have been confirmed which was wonderful to be a part of, and others returned to Church, having been reconciled with God. God has blessed our endeavours to share the Good News.
This has grown in popularity across the church in general recently- why do you think this is?
I think this is because people have seen others do it and give it a go, they too will have been surprised at the response. It’s popular because it allows you to connect with so many people in a relaxed way, meeting them where they are.
What tips do you have for people who wish to get involved?
In many ways, Ashes to Go can be daunting, talking publicly about faith and Church. I would say, be confident and give it a go, and remember that God is with you. For those who get involved, support one another, be bold and let God do the rest.
" be confident and give it a go, and remember that God is with you"
Download the Ashes to Go Leaflet
Inspired by Ashes to Go and want to give it a try? Then download Fr Daniel's leaflet which you can customise for your church.
Download it here
Try it out
Ashes to Go could be an ideal place to start as we think of ideas to engage with the community for our big mission event in 2019 - Give, Serve, Tell: Bishops in Mission 2019