'Ashes on the Go' takes church to the streets

DeKALB – With light snow gently falling on her head and a stole wrapped around her shoulders, the Rev. Amy Fallon offered ashes to every student passing the busy campus corner of Normal Road and Lucinda Avenue.

Campus minister Fallon and her colleague just down Normal Road at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, the Rev. Stacy Walker-Frontjes, offered the fourth annual “Ashes on the Go” in recognition of Ash Wednesday.

“In the Christian calendar, today is Ash Wednesday,” Fallon said to passing individuals and groups stepping off buses at the corner. “Would you like to receive ashes?”

Offered from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m., Fallon said it was a little slow early, but she expected to pray with more people as traffic increased around Northern Illinois University. Ashes are placed on one’s forehead as a sign of repentance at the start of Lent, the 40 days before Easter Sunday. The imposition is accompanied by a brief prayer.

“In ancient times, people showed repentance by taking the ashes from the kitchen fire,” Fallon said.

“Since we don’t have kitchen fires anymore, we use ashes from the palms burned on Palm Sunday last year. It’s a mark to recognize we are beginning a period of self-reflection and self-assessment.”

Walker-Frontjes likes the idea of extending the church’s hospitality and the demonstration of God’s love outside church walls. She waited for anyone passing on the walking path on the south side of the church.

“It could be interesting this year,” she said. “I’m not sure how many people will be walking by.”

Church members Rosemarie Ostberg and Christine Kruger waited on the north side of the church for drivers who might stop.

“This is an opportunity to let the community know we care,” Kruger said. “We’re trying to spread God’s love.”

Walker-Frontjes said Ashes on the Go is one of several ways her church moves outside the building.

They offer a welcome week when students return to campus in the fall, along with Prayers 2 Pass during finals week in the spring.

“I think it’s a great idea to bring church out of the building,” Ostberg agreed. “There are other places where you can feel God and see God.”