Michigan church offers 'drive-thru ashes' on Ash Wednesday

Drive Thru Ashes
St. David's Episcopal Church of Southfield, Michigan, provides prayer and ash crosses via "Drive-Thru Ashes" event for Ash Wednesday, 2019. |

A church in the Detroit, Michigan area is offering drivers the ashen cross of Ash Wednesday, as well as prayers, in observance of the start of the liturgical season of Lent.

St. David’s Episcopal Church of Southfield is holding a “Drive-Thru Ashes” event on Wednesday at their property’s driveway from 7:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. Eastern Time. The Drive-Thru Ashes event is in addition to two worship services featuring both Communion and the imposition of ashes, at 12:00 p.m. and 7:00 p.m. ET, respectively.

St. David’s Episcopal Rector Chris Yaw told The Christian Post on Thursday that the event was first observed a few years ago to minister to those too busy to attend an Ash Wednesday service.

“Episcopal churches have been doing what they call ‘ashes on the go’ for a long time,” explained Yaw, who credited the church’s music director with the idea.

“So we made up some signs, we put a half mile down the road one way, half mile down the road the other way, ‘drive-thru ashes a half mile ahead.’”

According to Yaw, the event has grown over the past few years. While dozens of drivers came in their inaugural “Drive-Thru Ashes” event, last year well over 500 people stopped by.

“When 500 people drive by and want ashes on Ash Wednesday, it tells you that people want to pray more than they are able to give time to do so,” he said.

In addition to the imposition of ashes on the forehead, participants in the drive-thru event will also hand out prayer cards and, if asked, will pray with motorists who come to their driveway.

Yaw also told CP that in the past some people, without being asked, donated money. Last year, the church received around $800 from drivers, all of which was directed to charity.

An important date for churches that observe the liturgical calendar, Ash Wednesday is observed with a worship service centered on a reminder that all people are destined to die.

A key part of the service is ashes, often derived from burned branches from last year’s Palm Sunday, are placed on the forehead of a worshiper in the form of a cross.

St. David’s Episcopal is not the only church in the United States offering drive-thru ashes. This year, Munholland United Methodist Church of Metairie, Louisiana, will be hosting a similar annual event. 

In a 2016 interview with CP, the Rev. Tim Smith of Munholland UMC explained that their event was “about taking the church into the community and meeting people where they are.”

“Many of the people who came through yesterday were on their way to or from work or unable to attend services at their church,” said Smith at the time.

"They wanted to 'start their day' with the observance of Lent and the marking of ashes. It's a reflection of the still strong spiritual hunger and desire still very much a part of people's lives."

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