Why yes, yes they do as a matter of fact.
In the past few years two local Episcopalian churches and the only Anglican one have started distributing ashes for Ash Wednesday. But aside from them and the Catholic churches, that’s it. Last year a friend who attends a local Evangelical-MegaChurch told me her pastor announced the Catholic Ash Wednesday mass times and they were printed in their newsletter (alas, no online record and she deleted hers).
And they are noticeable at mass. If they come together, there is a big group of them who go up to receive ashes but not Communion. Or they come in alone and end up in the middle of an aisle where everyone has to climb over them. My neighbor told me last year two talkative Baptist women sat behind him commenting on every part of the mass and said they were there “to see what all this ‘ashes business’ is about.”
I’m all for Protestants receiving ashes. I think it is an amazing symbol and a great way of evangelizing. But, for those like the women behind my neighbor, I wonder what the point is. If you don’t partake of Lent, what’s the point? If you don’t understand what it means to wear ashes, what’s the point?
I remember my daughter’s Godfather, when he was a seminarian, talking about growing up in New Jersey in the 60’s and 70’s where if you didn’t come to school in ashes, people assumed you were Jewish. Conversely, living in the South, right now, going around in my ashes tells everyone I’m Catholic. I wonder if some of these people whose churches or denominations do not distribute ashes get asked if they are converting. While our numbers are growing, we are still FAR in the minority here.
If you have any thoughts on Protestants receiving ashes, please share them in the comments.