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Pastors take Ash Wednesday on the road

DanHendricksas Pastor Trey Hall Chicago's Urban Village Church offers 'Ash Wednesday' observances CTA Damen Blue Line StatiNorth-Damen Milwaukee Ave. signify

Dana Hendrickson as Pastor Trey Hall of Chicago's Urban Village Church, offers "Ash Wednesday" observances at CTA Damen Blue Line Station, North-Damen and Milwaukee Ave., signify the beginning of Lent, Wednesday, February 22, 2012. | John H. White~Chicago Sun-Times.

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Updated: March 24, 2012 9:07AM

Observing “Ash Wednesday” doesn’t always require physically stepping into a church.

Pastors Christian Coon and Trey Hall of the Urban Village Church took to the streets and offered to smudge the foreheads of passers-by with ash, a Christian symbol of repentance to signify the beginning of Lent.

“We want to go to the people rather than expect them to come to us,” Coon said.

Church laypeople joined the pastors by carrying signs that asked “Got Ashes?” and handing out informational brochures about their church, which is a United Methodist Church.

“Our mission is to reach out to folks who’ve been burned or bored with organized church religion,” Hall said. “We’re always thinking of creative ways to spark people’s interest in faith.”

This is their second year rubbing ash crosses onto foreheads outside the walls of a church building. More than 70 Episcopal parishes in 18 states do the same.

The practice originally started in St. Louis in 2007 when the Rev. Teresa K.M. Danieley decided that if people can grab breakfast on the go, why shouldn’t they be able to get their ashes in a flash?

“It started sort of half-jokingly, but it became something pretty profound,” she told Religion News Service.

Last year the Urban Village Church pastors and laypeople made the sign of the cross on 250 to 300 people’s foreheads, Hall said. This year they expected to reach at least 500 people.

The church planned to offer ashes those at Daley Plaza, Willis Tower, and Millennium Park, amongst several other locations.

Dana Hendrickson, 27, of Forest Park, approached Hall for ashes Wednesday near the Damen Blue Line station.

“I actually had just talked to my mom that morning and said I didn’t think I was going to get to church because of work,” she said.

Marking each person’s forehead takes roughly 10 to 15 seconds, Hall said.

“We ask for their names, then we remind them that we are all from the earth and we all return to the earth,” he said. “We say different things to different people. Some people ask for prayers.”

Contributing: Gannett News Service

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