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Haverhill

February 12, 2013

Church to take Ash Wednesday to the streets

'Ashes to Go' workers will offer to mark foreheads at train station

HAVERHILL — As area Christians observe Ash Wednesday tomorrow, the spiritual leaders of one local church will be taking it to the street — the ashes, that is.

In a new take on a centuries-old Christian tradition, the Rev. Marya DeCarlen, rector of St. James Episcopal Church in Groveland, will leave the warm confines of her house of worship and brave the elements to offer “Ashes to Go," a street ministry that will kick off the Lenten season with an unusual twist.

DeCarlen and Julia Steer, minister of spiritual care for St. James, will be at Haverhill's Bradford train station from 6 to 9:15 a.m., offering ashes to those catching the morning train. Then they will be in front of the Georgetown Post Office to offer ashes from 9:30 to 11 a.m.

St. James Groveland is part of a new nationwide movement that has clergy and lay people visiting transit stops, street corners, coffee shops and college campuses to mark the foreheads of interested passers-by with ashes that mark the start of the holy season of Lent in preparation for the celebration of Easter, DeCarlen said.

"Since most of Jesus' ministry was done in open places where people longed to hear him, maybe we’re returning to our very roots," DeCarlen said. "In our crazy, busy, reflection-deprived lives, I feel called to imitate Jesus' ministry of meeting people where they are, to reach and create a moment of grace amidst the demands of our busy lives.

"Ash Wednesday gives us an excellent opportunity for doing that,” DeCarlen said.

Catholic churches in the area will be holding Masses tomorrow where ashes will be given, but for some of the faithful ashes, will be coming to them. The Rev. Timothy Kearney, pastor of All Saints Catholic Parish, expects to bring ashes to homebound parishioners, as well as those in nursing homes and hospitals who are unable to attend a Mass. But he does not see himself taking it a step further as St. James is doing.

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