‘Ashes To Go’ keeps tradition alive in a busy world
The Rev. Mark Chambers stood in the Holy Trinity Episcopal Church parking lot Wednesday morning marking the faithful with ashes as they pulled in to commemorate the beginning of the Lenten season.
Many never got out of their cars.
“The whole idea of the ‘Ashes To Go’ is to be accessible to the community,” said Chambers, pastor of the church in Port Neches. “Some people can’t make it to service so I said, ‘OK, how can we still help them get their ashes?’”
In two hours, he saw more people than he did during the morning service inside the sanctuary.
Ash Wednesday is a Christian holy day that signifies the start of Lent, a 40-day period filled with penitence and fasting in remembrance of the time Jesus spent in the desert. The season lasts through Easter Sunday. The ashes are made from burning the previous year’s Palm Sunday crosses.
The act of spreading ashes on the forehead of Christians began centuries ago as a symbol of God’s grace, love and the idea that “we are all temporary in this world and that we strive to one day meet him in Heaven,” Chambers said.
Chambers came to Holy Trinity last April after serving for two years at St. Luke’s on the Lake in Austin. That’s where he started “Ashes to Go.”
At 8 a.m. Wednesday, he made his way into parking lot, where two cars had already formed a line.
A steady stream followed. Some people were on their way to work and others on their way to drop off children at school. Chambers serviced more than 25 people. Other drivers waved as they sped past.
“This is just so excellent,” said Cora Jacquet of Port Arthur. “I was wondering where I could go to get my ashes and I was so busy. So when one of my friends told me about this I rushed on out here. It’s truly a blessing.”
Some people got out of their cars and greeted Chambers while others stayed seated while receiving the sign of the cross.
For Chambers, “Ashes to Go” is another outreach to the community. Even if it doesn’t get people to stop, he said, it at least gets them thinking about the ritual and what it means.
“It’s fun to guess if a car is going to stop or not,” Chambers said. “I get a lot of people who drive by and wave or look confused, wondering why I’m standing out here by the curb. But I love doing this and helping people get the ashes when they otherwise might not have.”