Trinity Railway Express riders this morning are observing Ash Wednesday, the start of the six-week Christian period of Lent, by receiving ashes from local pastors. A group of pastors from Calvary Lutheran Church in Richland Hills is offering to place ashes on the foreheads of riders and say a brief prayer just outside the Richland Hills Station, on a sidewalk.
The church originally put out flyers at the station offering to place the sign of the cross with ashes on parishioners' foreheads at the TRE station itself. But the Fort Worth Transportation Authority notified the church that the activity could not be done at the station. So instead, leaders from the church dressed in white robes are performing the service on a sidewalk just outside the station.
"It's important that we do this as a family," said Bobbie DeLeon, who received the ashes about 6:45 a.m. with her husband, Eli, and 4-year-old son Elija. Eli DeLeon rides the TRE each day to his job at Bank of America near Fort Worth's CentrePort area. He normally gets home after 7 p.m., so the family -- which is Catholic -- worried that they would miss Ash Wednesday services at their own church.
In December, the Fort Worth Transportation Authority came under fire for allowing atheist ads on its buses saying "millions of Americans are good without God." Churches responded by placing pro-God ads on buses, and the T later changed its policy to no longer allow religious ads on buses or T property.
However, a T spokeswoman said that controversy wasn't the reason the agency told Calvary Lutheran Church not to celebrate Ash Wednesday at the station itself. "The platform is for ridership. It's not a public forum," she said.
The group, which arrived at the Richland Hills Station at 4:30 a.m., planned to be there until 8 a.m., said Pastor Kyle Rouze. "It's hard enough for people to make time in their lives for God," he said. "So why not bring God to them."
-- Gordon Dickson, firstname.lastname@example.org