Ash Wednesday became real for people living their everyday lives last week as clergy persons from different parts of the California-Pacific Conference blessed strangers in public.
Rev. Vilma Cruz-Baez, Pastor of La Plaza United Methodist Church, and other clergy persons of United Methodist Churches in Downtown Los Angeles were on the streets with ashes when a Univision 34 news crew present to film Catholics noticed them and proceeded to interview Rev. Cruz-Baez. The interview was broadcast on the evening news.
Rev. Debbie Sperry, Pastor of Wesley United Methodist Church, set up a station at a patio of a Starbucks in Riverside. Her presence was advertised on a local Christian radio station’s Community Events section which brought a person to drive half an hour just to be present for the ashes.
Rev. Scott Andrews, Pastor of Shepherd of the Valley United Methodist Church in Indio, discovered “taking ashes to the people” from Ministry Matters. “I am glad to have walked out of our building and into the community to meet people who asked for ashes or simply needed someone to talk to,” he said.
University of California, Los Angeles Campus Minister Rev. Jeanne Roe Smith and a group of clergy persons put forth a ministry of presence as students and others received ashes. Upon seeing the clergy and their ashes, a mother of Girl Scouts selling cookies asked for Rev. Robert English, Associate Pastor of Santa Monica First United Methodist Church, to bless her daughters. “It was a meaningful witness to share a moment of peace and connection,” said Rev. English.
Rev. Smith participated in an ecumenical Ash Wednesday service and then went to speak at an immigration-reform rally where she shared about her experience of civil disobedience in calling the Obama Administration for an end to deportations. “I was reminded of how Lent calls us to be in suffering with others, to repent, and to seek new ways of being grace-filled and merciful,” she noted.
Others participating throughout Cal-Pac were Rev. Holly Reinhart-Marean, Rev. Janet McKeithen, Rev. Frank Wulf, Katherine Schofield, Rev. Allison Mark, Rev. Daniel Lewis, Rev. Eva Thai-Erwin, Rev. Mark Nakagawa, Rev. Sandie Richards, Rev. Johan Dodge, Rev. Melinda Dodge, and Rev. Mark Ulrickson.
Know of others in Cal-Pac who took ashes to the people on Ash Wednesday? Share the experience with all in the comments section below!