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Churches find creative ways to observe Ash Wednesday, Lenten season

Several Oklahoma City area churches, St. Augustine of Canterbury Episcopal and Christ the King Catholic, prepare for and celebrate Ash Wednesday and the Lenten season in creative ways.
by Carla Hinton Published: March 1, 2014

Not daunted by the chilly temperatures that occurred on Ash Wednesday 2013, a local Episcopal rector and deacon stood in the parking lot at their church to offer the congregation an opportunity to participate in the observance in an unusual way.

The Rev. Joseph Alsay, rector of St. Augustine of Canterbury Episcopal Church, said he will once again offer “Ash and Dash” on Wednesday at 14700 N May.

The Ash Wednesday initiative is a new approach to a centuries-old Christian ritual and one of the more creative ways that some area churches are observing the Lenten season.

Alsay said his church's novel approach to Ash Wednesday is part of a new nationwide movement that includes such initiatives as “Ashes to Go.” With “Ash and Dash,” passers-by are offered a simple Ash Wednesday prayer and dispensation of ashes as they sit at coffee shops, stand at transit stops and street corners or walk around college campuses.

Ash Wednesday marks the first day of the Christian season of Lent. Ashes used to observe the day often come from the burning of palm leaves used during Palm Sunday services the previous year. During Ash Wednesday services at churches around the world, the ashes are placed on the forehead of congregants in the sign of the cross.

The words “Remember that you are dust and to dust you shall return” remind believers of their mortality — that they are on Earth for a short time.

Alsay said Lent is a time for reflection and repentance in preparation for the celebration of Easter. He said Christians receive a cross of ashes on the face at the beginning of that season as a reminder of their mortal failings and an invitation to receive God's forgiveness.

He said “Ash and Dash” will be a good outreach that could draw busy church members and, he hopes, people in the community who may have lost their connection to a church.

“This tradition, in essence, has stood the test of time but we can present it in a new way,” Alsay said. He said the parking lot mini-service will not replace the church's traditional services set for noon and 7 p.m. Wednesday.

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by Carla Hinton
Religion Editor
Carla Hinton, an Oklahoma City native, joined The Oklahoman in 1986 as a National Society of Newspaper Editors minority intern. She began reporting full-time for The Oklahoman two years later and has served as a beat writer covering a wide...
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