'Ashes to Go': Tulsa church spreads the meaning of Lent
BY BILL SHERMAN World Religion Writer
Thursday, February 14, 2013
2/14/13 at 7:48 AM
One of mankind's oldest traditions got a new look Wednesday when several church groups walked the streets of Tulsa with small jars of ashes, administering words of encouragement and sometimes placing ashes on the forehead of people they met.
Ash Wednesday marks the beginning of Lent, a 40-day season of reflection and repentance leading up to Easter.
Ashes have been a sign of repentance for thousands of years, dating to Job, the oldest book in the Bible, said the Rev. Rob Martin of the First Evangelical Lutheran Church, 1244 S. Utica Ave.
Martin distributed ashes to parishioners at the 12:15 p.m. Ash Wednesday service at the church, and then two groups of members from the church hit the streets, one in the University of Tulsa area and the other in the neighborhood around the church.
The idea of taking ashes outside the church originated with the Episcopal Church several years ago, Martin said, where it is called "Ashes to Go."
"It's a great idea," he said.
Trinity Episcopal Church downtown participated in Ashes to Go this year for the first time, said associate pastor the Rev. Kristi Maulden, who walked around the TU campus Wednesday morning with a jar of ashes.
"I did it because so much of the Episcopal Church is hidden," she said. "I wanted to bring it outside so people can see what goes on in the church and also make it available to kids who couldn't make it to church."
She said she found students who wanted to talk about issues of faith and some who wanted ashes on their foreheads.
"Overall it was a really good experience. We'll do it again," she said.
Martin said both groups from First Lutheran were well-received.
His most memorable encounter, he said, was with a young man walking out of Hillcrest Medical Center who accepted a brochure and later sought out the group to talk to them and receive ashes.
"It was clearly really meaningful to him. It was beautiful," he said.
Martin said he was a little torn about distributing the ashes on the street because the observance belongs in the context of worship within a faith community.
"But on the other hand, it was an excellent opportunity to get outside the four walls of the church and take this message of hope to people ... just to grant people a little bit of grace, and to have a conversation with people," he said.
"We live in a busy world where some people don't have time to come into a church."
During the earlier church service, Martin said Lent was his favorite church season, a time to reflect on the fragility of life and the inevitability of death.
"I like it because it's a stripped-down season. It gets back to Christ, and him crucified," he said. "It's the best news we could have. ... Because of Christ, we live in the promise of the resurrection."
Original Print Headline: Lenten ashes modernized
Bill Sherman 918-581-8398
While spreading the meaning of Ash Wednesday to people on the street Wednesday, the Rev. Robert Martin (right) of First Lutheran Church places ashes on the head of Tray-Tho Kemp of Tulsa as Dino McCombs watches. JAMES GIBBARD/Tulsa World
The Rev. Robert Martin holds an Ash Wednesday service at First Lutheran Church in Tulsa on Wednesday before going out to the streets to offer people ashes. JAMES GIBBARD/Tulsa World
Jacqueline Reed (right) of Tulsa listens as the Rev. Robert Martin of First Lutheran Church and church member Beth Eukel-Nutter introduce themselves and tell her about the meaning of Ash Wednesday and offer ashes to her. JAMES GIBBARD/Tulsa World
First Lutheran Church member Beth Eukel-Nutter walks along Utica Avenue with the Rev. Robert Martin to offer people ashes to mark Ash Wednesday in Tulsa. JAMES GIBBARD/Tulsa World