Lutheran Advocacy Ministry in Pennsylvania (LAMPa), the Pennsylvania Council of Churches, the Episcopal Diocese of Central Pennsylvania, offered Ashes to Go at the state Capitol on Ash Wednesday – the first time for the practice there.

The response from passersby and hurried lawmakers and government staff — caught in an 8-month budget stalemate and a bitter impeachment debate – was one of gratitude.  Even many who did not receive ashes expressed thanks for our presence.  All who participated desire to make this an annual ecumenical practice.

Ashes to Go was begun to provide the opportunity to participate in the tradition that marks the start of the holy season of Lent, a time for reflection and repentance in preparation for the celebration of Easter, for people who have lost their connection to a church, or have never participated before.  Those who participated were given a handout that included prayers and a list of places and opportunities for worship and study during Lent.

“We are offering ashes at the Capitol because we think that this tangible reminder of our need and God’s mercy shouldn’t be confined to a church building,” said the Rev. Holger Roggelin, pastor of Messiah Lutheran Church, 901 N 6th St, Harrisburg.   “We need it all the more when we are in the middle of our daily business.”

Although the location was not prompted by heightened partisanship, the rite serves as a reminder of what unites humankind as well as an invitation to extend forgiveness and move beyond division, said Tracey DePasquale, LAMPa Interim Director.

“The ashes we receive here are to remind us of what we most deeply share: our common humanity and our need for grace,” Roggelin said.  They invite us to look at ourselves and our neighbors in a different way, and start a Lenten journey of reflection, reconciliation and acts of kindness.”

Leadership of three Harrisburg-area ELCA churches participated: Messiah, Trinity-Steelton, and Communities of Hope.

See coverage of the day here and here.

Read Pastor Victoria Larson’s reflection on the day.

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