"If people can't get to church, I'll come to them," said Priest Susan Copley this morning as she marked ashen crosses on the foreheads of about 25 commuters on the southbound platform of the Metro-North station.
This is the first year the head of Christ Episcopal Church and San Marcos Mission decided to take her pot of ashes down the road to the train station, and she was pleased with the results, if a bit chilly. In her long black coat, Copley stood between 6 and 8 a.m. outside the new enclosed waiting area with her signs inviting people to partake of her Ash Wednesday blessing.
"Remember that you are dust and to dust you shall return," she said to those approached.
Ash Wednesday inaugurates the season of Lent, which is "is a season of preparing yourself, of repentence," Copley explained.
This comes after the excess of Fat Tuesday, which unlike the wildness of a New Orleans-style Mardis Gras, can here be "pretty staid," she said. But Copley, as with her travelling ash-pot, likes to add some fun to things.
At her church last night, there was a free pancake supper. Pancakes were traditionally (perhaps as far back as the Middle Ages, she speculated) a great go-to item to use up the rich goods in one's pantry (eggs, milk, sugar, butter) before the period of penance and cutting back began.
At her church, parishoniers brought along toppings like whipped cream, syrups, fruits and enjoy breakfast for dinner. Then there's a bonfire out back where they burn the palm fronds from the procession last year to make the ashes used today. "It's really cool," Copley said.
She also heard a story recently that the pancake tradition might also be tied in with the woman 200 years ago who was late for church and literally ran out of her house with her frying pan, still fliping her pancakes. In England to this day, they hold races of women doing just this.
"That would be really fun to start here in Tarrytown," Copley said. Maybe next year.
For now, she had to hurry back to her church for the 9 a.m. service. All in a day's work. "Good Service" said the digital MTA sign over her head.