Churches across NJ offer ‘Ashes to Go’ on Ash Wednesday

Parishioner Bruce Lovejoy let cars and people walking by know that Trinity Episcopal Church in Moorestown is offering ashes to go.

Ashes to Go is an effort to get church leaders into the community on Ash Wednesday to administer ashes to people who can’t get to church — whether that’s in train stations, on the streets or in the parking lot.

“It was a new concept because I’ve been an Episcopalian all my life. I knew to get ashes on Ash Wednesday, but in a closed structure,” said Mount Laurel resident Stella Horton.

“I definitely think it helps working parents, it helps busy people and it’s a great way to reflect on the day,” said Claudia, who only gave her first name.

Ash Wednesday marks the beginning of Lent — the period set aside to prepare for Easter.

“We remember that Jesus spent 40 days in the wilderness fasting, and so we imitate Jesus by often giving something up,” said Rev. Emily Mellott.

Mellott was called to Trinity Episcopal Church after leading the Ashes to Go movement in Chicago.

“We fail and we need to start over again. To be able to do that right in the middle of their daily lives is very important,” she said.

“We know we have a number of businesses that are right around here and that not everyone can come for the entire liturgy, so I say the prayer for today and then give them ashes, and wish them a holy lent,” said Rev. Carlye Hughes.

Hughes administered ashes at the entrance of Trinity and St. Philip’s Cathedral in Newark.

“They’re a symbol of our mortality, they’re a symbol of our brokenness, and a reminder because they’re in the shape of a cross, that all can be healed and all can be redeemed,” he said. “In that time, they get to step into that kind of divine, sacred space.”

Rutgers Professor John Loftin stopped by on his way to class.

“Ash Wednesday is not really a holiday for anybody, so you have to do it where you can,” Loftin said.

Moorestown resident Kathleen Walsh didn’t think she would be able to do this because of work, but then she saw a sign.

“I went to 14 years of catholic school so this is really important,” she said.

An old custom — with a new twist.