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Ministers to offer ashes at CTA stops, other surprising spots on Ash Wednesday

Burning palms to prepare for Ash Wednesday

The ashes for Ash Wednesday come from burning palm fronds. | Sun-Times file photo

Ash and dash.

It’s a practical combination for thousands of hurried CTA train riders who — before going through turnstiles Wednesday morning — will encounter ministers bearing ashes.

“Some people don’t have the opportunity to go to an Ash Wednesday church service,” said United Methodist Pastor Christian Coon, who will be dispatching members of his church to Red, Green and Blue Line stops to provide ashes to anyone who wants them.

The ashes will be contained in a small plastic cup, “like one you might put ketchup in for fries,” said Coon, whose Urban Village Church has four locations in Chicago.

Coon said members of his church will be at these locations from 8 to 9 a.m.:

• Daley Plaza
• Roosevelt stop on the Orange/Green Lines
• Logan Square stop on the Blue Line
• Division stop on the Blue Line
• Bryn Mawr stop on the Red Line
• Morse stop on the Red Line
• 63rd and Cottage Grove stop on the Green Line
• Garfield stop on the Red Line

Nontraditional spots that ministers from Coon’s church plan to visit during the noon hour include the University of Chicago and a Target store at 1346 E. 53rd St. in Hyde Park.

Ash Wednesday marks the first day of Lent, which includes 40 days of fasting and prayer that lead up to Easter. The ashes of burned palms from last spring’s Palm Sunday celebrations are placed in a cross sign on adherents’ foreheads as a symbol of repentance and self-denial pointing to the biblical story of Jesus’ 40-day fast in the desert.

Several Chicago churches have a history of going to where the people are on Ash Wednesday.

Dwayne Grant, pastor of Xperience church in Englewood, will be at the 63rd Street Red Line stop from 7 to 9 a.m. and at the Green Line’s Halsted stop from 9:30 a.m. to noon.

“It only takes a few seconds,” Grant said. “But it can make a big difference in someone’s day.”

Catholic ministers, the city’s largest purveyor of ashes, are also getting in on the action.

In Lincoln Park, members of St. Teresa of Avila parish will offer ashes at the Armitage Brown Line stop from 7 to 9 a.m. and 3 to 7 p.m.