Worshippers around North Texas could observe Ash Wednesday in 60 seconds or less, without even turning off their car engines Wednesday.
“It’s always a tradition to go to church on Ash Wednesday but it’s a new tradition to drive through for ashes,” said Sandra Liser of Fort Worth, who stopped by Starbucks at the corner of Interstate 20 and Trail Lake Drive in Fort Worth for the ashes on her way to work.
Although the idea is new to some, Rector Bill Stanford of the St. Christopher Episcopal Church of Fort Worth is offering ashes to go for the third year.
Stanford, who has served as a main priest for 17 years, said he learned about drive-through ashes several years ago from a church in the northern United States.
“When I heard about the idea, I thought ‘I’ve got to do that’ but I was so scared I almost didn’t do it,” he said.
Now people expect to see him in front of the Starbucks.
“I’ve seen them here in years past so I knew they would be here,” said Angela Holland of Fort Worth, who made sure to come by before work. “It’s nice to have a blessing for the day.”
This year seven churches around Fort Worth, Arlington, Keller, Hurst and Decatur offered ashes at parking lots, shopping centers, busy street corners and a coffee shop for those who couldn’t make it to church Wednesday.
More than 75 people stopped by the Starbucks in Fort Worth to receive ashes from Stanford and three of his church members while motorists honked their horns and waved as they drove by.
Ash Wednesday is the beginning of the reflective season of Lent, which lasts until Easter Sunday. Ashes from the burning of palm fronds from last year’s Palm Sunday are combined with oil and used by priests to draw crosses on the foreheads of worshippers.
Rosa Hernandez works at the Wendy’s just behind the Starbucks and said she took a break from work to get ashes when she noticed what was going on.
“I love being out in the community and getting to talk to people,” Stanford said. “It’s a conversation starter.”
The churches offered the drive-through ashes as a way to meet people where they are and to give those who couldn’t make it to church a way to start off the Lenten season.
“There was a time not too long ago when I wouldn’t have been permitted to do something like this,” Stanford said. “But it’s a strength of the church to have the ability to evolve and learn to speak to a new time. We really love doing it.”
For information on locations and services, visit episcoaldiocesefortworth.org.