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Valley News Dispatch

On Ash Wednesday, some ministers took to the streets for Ashes to Go

Chuck Biedka
| Wednesday, Feb. 14, 2018, 9:00 p.m.
The Rev. Gary Lyon of Cross Roads Community Presbyterian Church reads a prayer while his wife, the Rev. Lisa Lyon, places ashes on the forehead of Mary-Ellen Vulgris of Gilpin. The Lyons distributed ashes on Wednesday, Feb. 14, 2018, along various streets in Leechburg.
Chuck Biedka | Tribune-Review
The Rev. Gary Lyon of Cross Roads Community Presbyterian Church reads a prayer while his wife, the Rev. Lisa Lyon, places ashes on the forehead of Mary-Ellen Vulgris of Gilpin. The Lyons distributed ashes on Wednesday, Feb. 14, 2018, along various streets in Leechburg.
Faith Young and her boys, Joshua, 7, (left) and Jonathan, 5, (right) receive a blessing from Revs. Gary and Lisa Lyon, co-pastors at Cross Roads Community Presbyterian Church on Ash Wednesday, Feb. 14, 2018 in Leechburg. Cross Roads Community is part of a nationwide movement that has church leaders offering 'Ashes to Go,' providing a new approach to meet the needs of the community in non-traditional ways.
Jack Fordyce | Tribune-Review
Faith Young and her boys, Joshua, 7, (left) and Jonathan, 5, (right) receive a blessing from Revs. Gary and Lisa Lyon, co-pastors at Cross Roads Community Presbyterian Church on Ash Wednesday, Feb. 14, 2018 in Leechburg. Cross Roads Community is part of a nationwide movement that has church leaders offering 'Ashes to Go,' providing a new approach to meet the needs of the community in non-traditional ways.
The Rev. Ben Phipps, pastor of of Roots of Faith in Sharpsburg, gives ashes and a blessing to Ron Burleigh, 47, of Mt. Oliver, on Main Street in Sharpsburg on Wednesday, Feb. 14, 2018. Roots of Faith is part of Faith United Methodist Church in Fox Chapel.
Nate Smallwood | Tribune-Review
The Rev. Ben Phipps, pastor of of Roots of Faith in Sharpsburg, gives ashes and a blessing to Ron Burleigh, 47, of Mt. Oliver, on Main Street in Sharpsburg on Wednesday, Feb. 14, 2018. Roots of Faith is part of Faith United Methodist Church in Fox Chapel.
Walt Eschelman receives a blessing from Revs. Gary and Lisa Lyon, co-pastors at Cross Roads Community Presbyterian Church on Ash Wednesday, Feb. 14, 2018 in Leechburg. Cross Roads Community is part of a nationwide movement that has church leaders offering 'Ashes to Go,' providing a new approach to meet the needs of the community in non-traditional ways.
Jack Fordyce | Tribune-Review
Walt Eschelman receives a blessing from Revs. Gary and Lisa Lyon, co-pastors at Cross Roads Community Presbyterian Church on Ash Wednesday, Feb. 14, 2018 in Leechburg. Cross Roads Community is part of a nationwide movement that has church leaders offering 'Ashes to Go,' providing a new approach to meet the needs of the community in non-traditional ways.
Chet Kwiatkowski, 72, of O'Hara, receives ashes Wednesday, Feb. 14, 2018, from the Rev. Ben Phipps, pastor of Roots of Faith in Sharpsburg. Roots of Faith is part of Fox Chapel-based Faith United Methodist Church.
Nate Smallwood | Tribune-Review
Chet Kwiatkowski, 72, of O'Hara, receives ashes Wednesday, Feb. 14, 2018, from the Rev. Ben Phipps, pastor of Roots of Faith in Sharpsburg. Roots of Faith is part of Fox Chapel-based Faith United Methodist Church.
Lisa Flick receives a blessing from Revs. Gary and Lisa Lyon, co-pastors at Cross Roads Community Presbyterian Chruch on Ash Wednesday, Feb. 14, 2018 in Leechburg. Cross Roads Community is part of a nationwide movement that has church leaders offering 'Ashes to Go,' providing a new approach to meet the needs of the community in non-traditional ways.
Jack Fordyce | Tribune-Review
Lisa Flick receives a blessing from Revs. Gary and Lisa Lyon, co-pastors at Cross Roads Community Presbyterian Chruch on Ash Wednesday, Feb. 14, 2018 in Leechburg. Cross Roads Community is part of a nationwide movement that has church leaders offering 'Ashes to Go,' providing a new approach to meet the needs of the community in non-traditional ways.

The Rev. Gary Lyon didn't worry about the forecast of rain on Ash Wednesday.

He bought a small folding shelter to use at the second annual Ashes to Go event in Leechburg.

Lyon and his wife, Lisa, who also is a pastor at Cross Roads Community Presbyterian Church on Main Street in Leechburg, spent about 45 minutes around lunchtime talking with pedestrians along Market Street.

At one point, two women requested ashes and prayer. The Rev. Lisa Lyon traced the symbol of the cross on their foreheads while her husband explained the message behind the ashes and prayed.

“On Ash Wednesday, we invite people to repent of past wrongdoings and seek forgiveness and renewal,” he said.

Rather than just scheduling Ash Wednesday services at their churches, some clergy offer outreach programs in which they take to the streets when there are sure to be plenty of passers-by.

At 4 p.m. Wednesday, the Lyonses moved to a busy Leechburg corner, First and Main streets, to give ashes and a prayer to motorists who pulled up briefly. The cross made in ash is a symbol of hope and promise, Gary Lyon said.

Christians observe Ash Wednesday as the first day of the Lenten season, a time of fasting and repentance. Catholics and many Protestants use ashes.

In Leechburg, some people who received ashes from the Lyons were Catholic but said they couldn't attend an Ash Wednesday Mass because of work or family responsibilities.

Elsewhere

The Revs. Scott Shaffer and Ben Phipps of Faith United Methodist Church in Fox Chapel offered ashes outside their church's community center in downtown Sharpsburg.

“We started at 10 a.m.,” Shaffer said. “It's traditional for United Methodists and others, for years.

“Fewer people are attending churches, so we take this sacred moment to them.”

Last year, Phipps climbed aboard a bus to put ashes on the forehead of the driver, and later he distributed ashes to a mail carrier, Shaffer said.

In downtown Pittsburgh, clergy from Trinity Cathedral on at Sixth Avenue distributed ashes in Market Square from 1 to 2 p.m. Wednesday.

“We were at the Mt. Lebanon T station earlier,” said Erin Morley, the cathedral's director of communications. “We met people and wished them a good day. Even if they didn't stop for ashes, they smiled because they knew God loves them.”

She said a Port Authority driver briefly left his empty bus to receive ashes.

Some clergy started distributing ashes earlier in the day.

About 45 people stopped along Lincoln Way in White Oak between 6 to 9 a.m., said the Rev. William Ryan, pastor of Faith Lutheran Church in White Oak.

“It was pretty steady,” he said of the visitors. “Last year, it was almost all Roman Catholics, and two from our church. This year, it was about 50-50. We used ashes on foreheads and said a prayer. Sometimes they asked for special prayers, too.

“We had teachers, nurses and baby-sitters. We were planting seeds.”

The Rev. Jessica McClure Archer of the Sampson's Mills Presbyterian Church across Lincoln Way from Faith Lutheran, also participated.

“It's a wonderful ministry of presence,” Archer said. “This is being more like Jesus. Being out in the community and praying with folks.”

Chuck Biedka is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at 724-226-4711, cbiedka@tribweb.com or via Twitter @ChuckBiedka.

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