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Church marks Ash Wednesday taking prayers to the Streets

Worshippers from across the Church of England's 12,500 parishes will celebrate Ash Wednesday in special services tomorrow. Keeping with the centuries old tradition, worshippers' foreheads will be marked in ash with the Sign of the Cross, from the ashes of burnt palm crosses, as a sign of the spirit of penitence with which the season of Lent is kept.

Among other special events for Ash Wednesday, the Archbishop of York, Dr John Sentamu, will be visiting All Saints Church and Teesside University in Middlesbrough taking prayer into the public domain offering to pray with people in their worries and concerns or to give thanks for their blessings.

The Bishop of Dudley, Rt Revd David Walker, will be with members of churches in Worcester, Bromsgrove and Stourbridge hitting the streets and offering to say a prayer for the people they meet. Bishop David will be collecting prayers as part of the team in Stourbridge. He said: "We know that people really appreciate somebody offering to say a prayer for them. In the past we have collected over 120 prayer requests in two hours in one location. We'll be collecting prayers for whatever concerns the people we meet and we believe that prayer can make a real difference."

In Dewsbury, West Yorkshire, the Bishop of Ripon and Leeds, Rt Revd John Packer, will join with other church leaders to make public witness to their shared Christian faith and values in society, supporting the work of Churches Together in Dewsbury in proclaiming the Gospel and in building community with neighbours of other faiths. The church leaders will stand where, last year, external political extremists promoted hate and abused the Gospel and stand instead for reconciliation and community relations. They will pray "for the strength to resist evil, and especially any who seek to divide and sow the seeds of distrust between our communities".

The Bishop of Gloucester, Rt Rev Michael Perham, will be marking Ash Wednesday by scaling the heights of St Mary de Lode Church, Gloucester, to hang a banner inviting everyone to come and Experience Easter. In all, 84 large banners will be displayed outside churches in Gloucester Diocese during the lead up to Easter. "Easter is the most important date in the Church's calendar. It is a time of tremendous celebration for Christians and we would like to share this joy with everyone. So we are literally broadcasting our message from the roof tops."

The Church of England also has a website, www.prayoneforme.org, where anyone can post their prayer requests and know that they will be prayed. Prayoneforme.org will be supported by church groups and prayer communities across the Church of England who will pray the prayers.