One Charlotte minister marked Ash Wednesday – the beginning of Lent – by taking the ashes to the people.
Namely, to those java-sipping people sitting on the sidewalk outside Caribou Coffee in the Park Road Shopping Center.
All told, the Rev. Nathan Arledge of Myers Park United Methodist Church – dressed in T-shirt and shorts, not robe and clerical collar – administered ashes to the foreheads of 20 to 30 Christians Wednesday morning.
It’s a modern take on an ancient ritual designed to remind believers of their mortality and to extend an invitation for them to seek repentance and introspection.
Instead of insisting that people come to a church building on Ash Wednesday, Arledge said he wanted to do what Jesus did: “Meet people where they are.”
And outside a coffee shop, you can meet “all types of God-loved children,” said Arledge, 33, who is minister of missions at Myers Park United Methodist.
St. Peter’s Episcopal Church in uptown Charlotte also set up a sidewalk station on Wednesday to administer “ashes to go” to busy passersby.
“Ash-and-dash,” others call the practice of doing your Lenten duty on the way to work.
The 40-day spiritual journey that is Lent begins with the starkness of Ash Wednesday and will end with the joy of Easter on April 16, when Christians celebrate Jesus' resurrection from the dead.
Lent has been observed by Catholics, Orthodox Christians and many mainline Protestants for centuries.