Tucson church provides "Ashes To Go" on Ash Wednesday - Tucson News Now

Tucson church provides "Ashes To Go" on Ash Wednesday

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TUCSON, AZ (Tucson News Now) -

Many people were heading to church Wednesday to receive ashes on their foreheads.

But in a new twist this year, one church is actually offering something a little different on Ash Wednesday.

A Starbucks or a bus stop might be the last places you'd think to go for ashes on Ash Wednesday, but St. Philip's In The Hills Episcopal Church gave Tucson a new experience.

"Ashes To Go."

A centuries-old Christian tradition, Ash Wednesday marks the beginning of Lent, the 40 days leading up to the holiest day on the Christian calendar, Easter.

The mark of ashes on the forehead is a sign of repentance.

"Ashes To Go" takes the ceremony to where the people are.

"We want to open up our walls and be available and let everyone know that God's love is everywhere, not just in the church, but also out on the street," says The Reverend Vicki Hesse of St. Philip's In The Hills Episcopal Church.

St. Philip's parishioner Elizabeth Rose says, "It's so wonderful that we're going out to where the people are instead of waiting for them to come into our structure, into our church to pray. We're going out into the community and we've been really well received. It's just been a blessing for us."

At St. Augustine Cathedral, Roman Catholics gathered for mass Wednesday, filling the church.

They came in the traditional way to receive ashes.

While the Catholic Church will send ashes home with a person who has a loved one who cannot get to mass, the idea of "Ashes To Go" resonates with the rector.

Father Gonzalo Villegas calls it reaching out.

"I see that as like a missionary. They're tryIng to reach out which is great. I think maybe it's something that maybe as Catholics we too should think about maybe going out there," Father Gonzalo says.

The Reverend Hesse brought the idea to Tucson.

She says it began last year in several places, including Chicago, Washington, D.C., and in Iowa.  

Hesse says this first year in Tucson was "fabulous" as the church reached out and touched many people.

She says in many cases, the receiving of ashes helped them open up and share issues troubling them.

Hesse says there were many tears.  

Yes, she expects to do it again next year.

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