Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Faith in the Fast Lane

Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Faith in the Fast Lane

Article excerpt

DUMONT — Phil Foschini was in a hurry on Wednesday morning, when he saw a sign.

The sandwich board outside Old North Reformed Church advertising "Ashes to Go" caught his eye, and he made a U-turn in his utility van.

Within minutes, he was back on his way, only now he was wearing his own sign: a cross made of ashes on his forehead.

Foschini, of Dumont, and other faithful marked this Ash Wednesday and the onset of Lent in a unconventional fashion, receiving ashes not in a church but at bus stops, in train stations and even in their cars.

"I would've squeezed it in somehow," said Foschini, a PSE&G worker en route to a project. "This made it a lot easier."

"Ashes to Go," known in some religious circles as "Drive-thru Ashes," is a movement that found its place for the first time in Dumont and Bergenfield on Wednesday, but it has become more commonplace with churches throughout the nation, and across the globe, for the past decade.

The Episcopal Diocese of New Jersey announced this week that clergy throughout the state would impose ashes at 30 out-of-church sites. Other "Ashes to Go" events were to be held by congregations throughout North Jersey, including in Allendale, Bloomfield, Little Falls and Ridgewood.

On Wednesday, Old North teamed with Calvary United Methodist Church of Dumont and the Church of the Good Shepherd of Bergenfield to perform the imposition of ashes at three spots along Washington Avenue, the main drag that bisects the two boroughs.

For Old North, the ritual began at 6 a.m. with a small table, folding chairs and candles in the Dumont church's parking lot, next to a bustling NJ Transit bus stop.

The Rev. Susan Kerr, the church's pastor, and elders of the congregation were there to offer ashes and friendly greetings.

Many who approached Kerr's table were there for a matter of seconds – all of the time it took the pastor to dip her finger in a tiny bowl of ashes before tracing crosses on their foreheads.

One woman, who looked as if she was about to miss her ride to work, met Kerr at the sidewalk, shared a quick prayer and immediately boarded a bus to New York City.

Not long after, Carmen Curran walked up to the table out of curiosity. …

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