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Church takes Ash Wednesday on to the streets

Churchgoers in The Durham Diocese will be taking a new approach to a centuries-old tradition ...

Churchgoers in The Durham Diocese will be taking a new approach to a centuries-old tradition with the help of the Bishop of Durham, the Right Revd Paul Butler (right).

St Michael and All Angels, Houghton-le-Spring, is joining the new international movement Ashes to Go that sees clergy and lay people visiting bus stops, street corners, coffee shops and train stations to mark the foreheads of interested passers-by with ashes and invite them to repent of past wrongdoing and seek forgiveness and renewal.

On Ash Wednesday, 18 February, churchgoers will be offering the new approach on The Broadway, Houghton-le-Spring, from 7.15–9.15am, and will be joined by the Bishop of Durham, The Right Reverend Paul Butler.

Ash Wednesday marks the start of the holy season of Lent, a time for reflection and repentance in preparation for the celebration of Easter. For centuries, Christians have received a cross of ashes on the face at the beginning of that season as a reminder of mortal failings and an invitation to receive God’s forgiveness.

Ashes to Go provides the opportunity to participate in that tradition for people who have lost their connection to a church, or have never participated before, according to the Reverend Canon Sue Pinnington (below), Rector of Houghton-le-Spring.

She said: “Ashes to Go is about bringing the important traditions of our faith out from behind church doors and into the places we need them every day.

“As people get busier and busier, we need the church to be working in new and non-traditional ways. We especially need reminders of forgiveness in the tough places of our working lives. The people who accept ashes on the street are often people longing to make a connection between their faith and the pressures of daily life. Ashes to Go helps them feel that connection.

“I first encountered and took part in Ashes to Go last year in Washington DC and was incredibly moved by the encounters I had with people as they travelled to work. This is the first time we have taken part in Ashes to Go here in Houghton and we are delighted that Bishop Paul is joining us.”

Photos above by Keith Blundy
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