A comment on my
recent rush-hour-communion post mentioned the Episcopal Church's recent practice of Ashes to Go, a form of "liturgical evangelism" that
has brought congregations out into streets, bus stations, train stations and
subway stations to dispense ashes on Ash Wednesday.
When I started
to read about Ashes to Go, I had many of the same questions that I brought to
early-morning communion. At first I thought, ashes to go? Whatever happened to
liturgy and community? Aren't we just feeding into our culture's unwillingness
to stop for anything at anytime? Can ashes really be offered like a fast food
item at a take out window?
But once again,
in the midst of these restless and protesting thoughts, another reality has
"Religious commitments are no longer taken for
granted as part of North American people's lives," says Scott Kershner of Holden Village, a Lutheran retreat center in Washington State. "So space opens up to
ask very basic and interesting questions."
I've been trying to imagine how Jesus felt right after his baptism. The heavens were torn open, the Spirit of God alighted on him in the form of a dove, and that voice from heaven declared, "You are my Son, the beloved; with you I am well pleased."
“No religion” is now the single largest group in England and Wales, according to British Social Attitudes data. Consisting of nearly half of the population, this group is twice the size of those who identify as Anglicans and four times the size of the Catholic population. A similar pattern prevails across Europe. The decline of Catholics in Britain would be more severe were it not for Christian immigrants from Africa and Asia. The data show that the church is poor at making converts and at keeping cradle believers. The Anglican and Catholic churches lose at least ten members for every convert (Guardian, May 27).