THE rites of Ash Wednesday
emerged on to the high street at St Neots, in Ely
diocese, when the Rector of Eynesbury, the Revd Debbie Noonan
(above), and the Priest-in-Charge at St Neots, the Revd
Paul Andrews, marked the foreheads of the parishioners who came,
and also many passers-by, and blessed them.
It was the first time that
they had taken the rite outside the church building. The suggestion
came from Mrs Noonan, who arrived from the United States only a few
months ago. She had done the same thing outside Trinity Cathedral,
Phoenix, Arizona, and Mr Andrews agreed that they should try
It was a freezing cold day,
and they spent a total of an hour and a half on the streets; but
the response was warm, and they were pleased at the way it went.
Some people would not make eye contact, Mrs Noonan tells me, but
they had interesting conversations with people who were curious
about what they were doing, and they were able to hand out leaflets
that explained about Ash Wednesday and Lent.
Among those who willingly
accepted the ash-marked cross on their foreheads were a Roman
Catholic family on holiday from Scotland, who had been unable to
find a convenient service in an RC church; so they subsequently
attended a eucharist at the parish church. Ms Noonan says that the
offering of ashes on the street is a reminder that God meets us in
the midst of life, and is an opportunity for those with busy
schedules to take time out to remember their need for God. She and
Mr Andrews plan to do the same again next year.