On Ash Wednesday, February 14, 2018, The Cathedral Church of St. Paul’s offered “Ashes to Go,” a new approach to a centuries-old Christian tradition. The staff at St. Paul’s stood outside the church at 815 High Street, Des Moines, offering this ritual on the sidewalks at 8am and again at 4pm. 

The Cathedral Church of St. Paul’s was part of a nationwide movement that had clergy and lay people visiting transit stops, street corners, coffee shops, and college campuses to mark the foreheads of interested passers-by with ashes and invite them to repent of past wrongdoing and seek forgiveness and renewal.

In the Christian tradition, Ash Wednesday marks the start of the holy season of Lent, a time for reflection and repentance in preparation for the celebration of Easter. Ashes to Go provides the opportunity to participate in that tradition for people who have lost their connection to a church, or have never participated before.

“On Ash Wednesday, many of God’s people are rushing to work, to pick up the kids, to get through the places and chores of our over scheduled lives. Ashes to Go is one way to bring the gifts of ritual out of our buildings and into the byways of life, where those gifts may be most needed,” says Deacon John Doherty of St. Paul’s. “We’re offering ashes on the street, because healing shouldn’t be confined to a church building. We can bring God and community to people who need both and don’t know where to look for either.”