‘Ashes to Go’ just one of Ash Wednesday’s traditions
There’s a convenient way to receive ashes in Leechburg on Ash Wednesday.
The Revs. Gary and Lisa Lyon, co-pastors at Cross Roads Community Presbyterian Church in Leechburg, offer “Ashes to Go” annually at two locations: CoCo Coffeehouse on Market Street in the morning and outside their church on Main Street from 4:30 to 6 p.m.
The Ashes to Go practice was started by Episcopal clergy in 2007.
“It’s an opportunity to offer a devotional and reflective moment,” said the Rev. Lisa Lyon. “Last year, we had rain. This year, we have freezing cold, but we have already offered ashes to 13 people this morning.”
Ash Wednesday is the beginning of the Lenten season.
For those unable to make it to a brick and mortar church, this nontraditional way of received ashes is gaining traction, both pastors said.
“We actually had many businesses reach out to us this year, asking if we would go out in the community offering ashes,” said the Rev. Gary Lyon, Lisa’s husband.
Debi Bell of Hyde Park received her ashes while grabbing her take-out lunch from CoCo’s on Wednesday.
“I am busy working,” Bell said. “I own my hair salon and I come by every year.”
This is the fourth year the pastors have offered ashes to individuals on the street.
The Lyons offered a Scripture reading (Joel 2:12-13), a prayer and the Christian sign of repentance: a smudged cross of ashes on the forehead.
“People sometimes ask if it’s OK to receive ashes outside of church, and the answer is yes,” Lisa Lyon said. “The Bible tells us that wherever two or three are gathered in the name of Christ, the Lord is the midst of them.”
Weston Patcyk, 27, of Parks Township is a busy new dad and husband who works. So he scheduled a Wednesday visit to CoCo’s with his wife, Kayla, and son, Jensen.
“I work shift-work, and it’s hard to get to church,” said Weston, a Catholic. “I like this. It’s convenient, and getting some coffee, too, was a bonus.”
Kathy Munko, a Protestant from Parks Township, never misses her devotional time on Ash Wednesday with the Lyonses.
“I think it’s great that they are doing it because there are people that don’t go to church around here, and they come by and they see this going on and they love it,” Munko said. “I do this every year.”
According to statistics from the Episcopal Church, more than 70 Episcopal parishes in 18 states bring Ash Wednesday to the streets nationwide.
CoCo Coffeehouse owner Nikki Saxion offers her popular eatery for Ashes to Go annually, and Gary Lyon said he and his wife are most grateful for the partnership.
“Nikki really deserves a mention for her support, but she stays behind the scenes,” Gary Lyon said. “We are very appreciative of her support.”
“I think the Ashes to Go concept is perfect for busy Christians today,” Saxion said, “and I am happy to help in any small way.”
Joyce Hanz is a Tribune-Review contributing writer.