This article can be found published on the Daily Local News‘ website.
Ash Wednesday marks the beginning of Lent, a season of penance, reflection and fasting, which occurs 46 days before Easter Sunday.
Many of the faithful will take Wednesday off of work to remain home and celebrate Mass, where ashes are applied to their head to symbolize the dust from which God created people.
For others who may not be able to take time off from work for the Mass, a recent movement of “drive-thru” ashes has been the answer, which the Westminster Presbyterian Church in West Chester will be doing Wednesday.
“We have a circle in our front portico where people can drop somebody off,” said Don Lincoln, the lead pastor at Westminster. “We had signs directing people and had a couple pastors standing out in the circle. People just pull up, roll down their window and we mark their forehead if they want the sign of the ashes and they drive on.”
…[Please continue the story on the Daily Local News website by clicking here.]
Westminster, located on West Pleasant Grove Road, started this new tradition last year and had some success with it.
“Last year, we decided we were going to make ashes a little more available to folks that couldn’t perhaps make it to an Ash Wednesday service due to a job or family,” Lincoln said. “We did a Drive-Thru Ashes from 7 to 8:30 in the morning and found that it was clearly appreciated.”
Westminster saw about 25 cars come to receive the sign of ashes in their car and, if they wanted, some free coffee as well.
All told, roughly 40 people took advantage of the quick-application as some of the cars carried more than one person inside.
“The folks who came through were absolutely thrilled,” Lincoln said. “The first to come through was a church member and she said she had never been able to come get an ashes and that she was glad she could come do this. The enthusiasm of the folks who came that we felt was very high. They seemed very grateful.”
The drive-thru ashes will be made available outside of the Westminster Presbyterian Church from 7 to 9:10 a.m. Wednesday, this time allowing the preschool parents arriving to drop their children off the same opportunity others may have.
Along with the time extension, pastors from Westminster will also head out to the Sykes Student Union building at West Chester University around late morning through lunch.
“They’ll set-up in the lobby and offer ashes to anyone who would like the sign of ashes marked on their forehead or hand to begin Lent in that traditional way,” Lincoln said.
As long as people in the community want to take advantage of Westminster’s Drive-Thru Ashes, Lincoln plans to continue to have it every year to go along with their normal Ash Wednesday services.
“We would love to do it if it continues to meet a need,” he said. “If it works and is meaningful and folks appreciate it, we’d love to continue to have it.”
Westminster isn’t alone in its effort to bring this tradition outside of the walls of a church.
In fact, as Lincoln pointed out, other churches around the country are doing the same, with some sending pastors to subway and bus stations to apply the ashes to commuters who may have to rush places.
“Some people are a little disturbed by this fast pace,” Lincoln said. “Everything is drive-thru – our food and everything else (and they think) people should be able to come in, slow down and take a moment and sit in a service. I fully understand that, but on the other hand, not everybody has the privilege of that kind of time. We thought people whose pace in life or vocation in life doesn’t allow them to go to a church and receive ashes shouldn’t prevent them from being able to do so.
“This should be made available to anybody who wants it. If we can help someone begin this spiritual journey by making it a little more available, then that’s a great thing.”