Ashes on the go

SARANAC LAKE – A local pastor took to the street Wednesday to provide a Lenten season ritual to passersby.

The Rev. Ann Gaillard of St. Luke’s Episcopal Church, joined by Mary Lawthers, a junior warden in the church’s vestry, provided “ashes to go” to willing participants in front of the Saranac Lake post office on Ash Wednesday.

It’s the second year in a row St. Luke’s has offered “ashes to go,” a movement that began in 2007 with an Episcopal church in St. Louis and has since spread across the country.

“Last year we tried it, and the response was so positive that we wanted to try it again,” Gaillard said. “Not only did people get ashes, but they were really hungry for prayer as well. So what we do is we offer ashes and we offer prayer.

“I think people are spiritually hungry even if they may not want to go to church. We’re coming to them instead of expecting them to come to us.”

Using crushed palm ashes from last year’s Palm Sunday, Gaillard made the symbol of the cross on the forehead of people who asked to receive the rite, which is typically observed in Catholic, Episcopal, Lutheran and Methodist churches. Ash Wednesday marks the beginning of the 40-day season of Lent, culminating in the celebration of Jesus Christ’s resurrection on Easter Sunday.

“A lot of what Lent has to do with is self-reflection, thinking about your life and reflecting spiritually on how you can turn your life around,” Gaillard said. “The ashes represent our mortality as a reminder that we need to be thinking about how we want to live our life, because life is short.”