The Ash Wednesday initiative will remind people 'that the Christian faith is alive and active in Sunderland'

Two churches in the north-east of England will take to the streets on Ash Wednesday, encouraging people to repent and return to God.

On Wednesday St Mary’s Catholic church and Sunderland Minster, an Anglican church, will be working together to offer “Ashes to Go” – a new approach to a centuries-old Christian tradition.

The initiative will take place around Sunderland city centre beginning with a 10am service in the Minster Church of St Michael and All Angels and St Benedict Biscop, after which two local bishops and other Church leaders will enter the city’s streets and the Bridges Shopping Centre to mark the foreheads of interested passersby with ashes.

They will invite them to turn away from the past and seek God’s forgiveness and renewal.

“Ashes to Go” will end with Mass at 12.05pm in St Mary’s church.

The bishops taking part are Bishop Seamus Cunningham of Hexham and Newcastle and the Anglican Bishop of Durham, the Rt Rev Paul Butler.

Fr Marc Lyden-Smith, parish priest of St Mary’s and chaplain to Sunderland AFC, said: “This will be a tremendous witness in our city, with Catholics and Anglicans working together to start the season of Lent, perhaps reminding those who have fallen away from the Church, or have never been before, that the Christian faith is alive and active in Sunderland.”

He added: “I hope it will remind everyone that we have a loving and Merciful God, who welcomes all no matter what.”

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