Passers-by were encouraged to celebrate the start of Lent with an impromptu Ash Wednesday tradition.
The Right Revd Paul Butler, The Anglican Bishop of Durham and the Right Reverend Seamus Cunningham, The Catholic Bishop of Newcastle & Hexham, were joined by The Most Revd Dr Onesphore Rwaje, the Archbishop of Rwanda, as they offered to ash and pray for passers-by in Sunderland city centre.
The celebration was held as part of the international Ashes to Go movement, which encourages people who have lost their connection to a church, or have never participated before, to take part in the tradition.
Bishop Paul said: “It was a delight to join with our friends from the Catholic Church and the people of Sunderland to mark the start of Lent.
“I am always amazed at the welcome we receive when we go out and offer to ‘Ash’ people and pray for them. One of the reasons we do it is because people are perhaps losing the sense of Lent and doing this reminds them about Ash Wednesday and gives them the opportunity to think about their mortality and the forgiveness of Christ. It is a conversation starter and some of the conversations that have been created through this have been very interesting.”
The morning started with an eucharist service lead by Bishop Paul in Sunderland Minster before taking to the streets for the ‘Ashing’ and ended with mass at St Mary’s with Bishop Seamus. Ash Wednesday marks the start of the holy season of Lent, a time for reflection and repentance in preparation for the celebration of Easter.