By Janee Law
Commuters at the Huntington Long Island Railroad Station Wednesday morning may have noticed Rev. Joel Brandt holding a bible on the platform as he stood next to a sign that read “Ashes To Go.”
“Many people won’t have time today to run into a church to get ashes at the beginning of this holy season,” said Brandt, referencing Ash Wednesday, the first day of Lent in the Western Christian Church. “And so we come to them.”
Brandt, of the Gloria Dei Evangelical Lutheran Church in Huntington Station, said Ashes To Go is a worldwide movement that started in St. Louis in 2007, but has since “been catching on” in other areas. He said he brought the movement to the Huntington train station three years ago, and plans to continue doing so on a yearly basis.
“The first year I did it, people were kind of surprised. My own congregation, they were just kind of intrigued by it as well and happy that we would do this, that we can represent the Christian community here and say we understand the lives of busy commuters,” Brandt said.
He continued, “It’s a wonderful way to meet some people and just connect with commuters. We want them to know they aren’t forgotten and God’s love is with them this day too.”
As hundreds of commuters swarmed trains during the morning rush hour, Brandt said about 40 people stopped to receive their ashes, and listen to a “simple prayer” to bless them on their way.
Camille Fiato, 52, of Huntington, said she was one happy commuter when she spotted Brandt and approached him to receive her ashes and blessing.
“I usually either go find a church in Manhattan because by the time I get home it’s too late here,” Fiato said. “Last year, they actually had a priest in Penn Station giving ashes. I’m surprised I don’t have to wait to get to Penn Station today.”