Some Christians marked Ash Wednesday in a non-traditional setting this year: at the top of a Vermont ski mountain.
Rev. Lee Crawford, an Episcopal priest at the Church of Our Saviour in Killington, was at Killington Peak Wednesday offering ashes to skiers and riders at Killington Resort.
“Being on top of a mountain—regardless of one's faith—one gets that much closer to heaven,” Crawford told necn.
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Ash Wednesday reminds many Christians of their mortality and is the start to Lent, the most sacred time of year for the faithful.
“Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return,” Crawford told the skiers and riders who asked to connect with her on the mountain.
The day sees the application of ashes, from burned palms from the previous year’s Palm Sunday, to people’s foreheads, in the shape of the cross.
Crawford leads a traditional Ash Wednesday service at the Church of Our Saviour, though the avid skier has found riding the ski lift to the top of the mountain is a great way to make her ministry more accessible.
“More and more churches are recognizing that we cannot stay inside our churches and wait for people to come see us,” Crawford said. “But rather, we need to go where we can find people.”
At Killington, she found people like David Maichle, who was visiting Vermont from Delaware to enjoy the ski resort.
“I thought I was going to miss church and wasn't going to get my ashes,” Maichle said. “So when I got off the lift, I was amazed [she was] there and thankful for it.”
A group of friends from the Boston area also received ashes from Crawford. Several in the group said they appreciated her being there because it provided a reminder of childhood traditions with churchgoing relatives.
“I’m feeling very blessed right now,” said Dave Ferreira of Saugus, Massachusetts, recalling his grandmother’s faithful observance of Ash Wednesday. “And I’m definitely feeling connected to her right now.”
“It was a little out of the ordinary to see this going on up here, so why not, you know?” added Tom Ross of Everett, Massachusetts.
Crawford said for many people, the non-church setting makes this connection more memorable, while no less meaningful.
The vicar said she will be back at the top of the ski lift on Easter Sunday, for a popular sunrise service held at Killington Peak.