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Episcopalians take it to the streets for Ash Wednesday

For Ash Wednesday, some Episcopal churches participated in an outreach program called “Ashes to Go”
BY PIET LEVY Published: February 25, 2012

Five years ago, the Rev. Teresa K.M. Danieley had an epiphany of sorts.

If people can grab breakfast on the go or pay a bill from their cellphone, she thought, why shouldn't they be able to get their ashes in a flash?

That's why, on Ash Wednesday 2007, Danieley planted herself in full priestly regalia at a busy intersection in St. Louis, smudging the sign of the cross on the foreheads of bicyclists, drivers and bus passengers.

This year, at least 49 Episcopal parishes across 12 states offered ashes to passers-by at train stations, bus stops and college campuses Wednesday as Danieley's “Ashes to Go” concept continues to spread nationwide.

In Oklahoma, the Canterbury Association, a ministry on the campus of Oklahoma State University, participated in the outreach, and 32 people received ashes through the effort, organizers said. Students, faculty, staff and visitors were invited to receive ashes and a prayer during two periods throughout the day on Wednesday at the Chi-O Clock on campus.

“We live in a time where we can't just sit back and wait for people to come to us,” said Bishop Stacy F. Sauls, chief operating officer for the New York-based Episcopal Church. “We have to meet people where they actually are.”

Danieley, rector of St. John's Episcopal Church in St. Louis, said the idea was born in a Bible study discussion in late 2006 or early 2007. That first year, she offered a brief Ash Wednesday liturgy to about 75 or 100 people who crossed her path.

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