Ohio church offers drive-thru ashes

And now for something completely different:

An Ohio church is offering a drive-thru Ash Wednesday blessing for parishioners pressed for time or reluctant to come inside the church for the Lenten observance.

The Rev. Patricia Anderson Cook of Mt. Healthy United Methodist Church in Mount Healthy offered the ashes Wednesday evening for people of all faiths beginning around 5 p.m. in the church parking lot. Ash Wednesday marks the beginning of the Christian season of Lent, which concludes after 40 days with the celebration of Easter, and the faithful traditionally have a smudged cross drawn on their forehead.

Bridget Spitler, the church’s secretary and building manager, said the church had received a lot of positive feedback for offering the drive-thru ashes.

“Some people may not be too comfortable coming in for a serious service,” she said, adding that people with severe arthritis or other ailments that make attending the service uncomfortable also appreciate the drive-thru opportunity.

The pastor will provide a church brochure and a Lenten booklet, and the church offers a traditional Ash Wednesday service inside at 7 p.m.

It’s a first at her church, but some other churches have also taken more-informal approaches to the ashes. There’s even a Web site called Ashes to Go.

Read more.


  1. Oh no. There is something really wrong with that. God forbid a Catholic church would do that.

  2. good grief. As they drove through, did she ask, “You want the Host with that?”

  3. A number of Episcopal churches in Massachusetts featured “Ashes to go” yesterday, including one church that offered ashes at a commuter rail station!


  4. I noticed that the Pope had the ashes put on the crown of his head and not the forehead. Why is this? Is it only the Pope? Anyone know?

  5. Suburbanbanshee says:

    Mark — It’s an Italian/European thing — some go with the heaping ashes on your head thing instead. Also, some think it’s more fitting for priests, because of the tonsure they get (or got, back in the day).

  6. Really wonderful idea, Gerard…and an excellent article! Thanks so much.

  7. Deacon Bill says:

    Until 1972, all tonsured clerics received the ashes on the crown of the head, as suburbanbanshee mentioned. In 1972, tonsure was suppressed in the Latin West.

    It’s not completely forgotten, however. Yesterday, at our first Mass of Ash Wednesday, as the pastor and I prepared to sign each other with the ashes, he leaned over and asked, “Were you tonsured?” The answer was an emphatic “no.” Fortunately, neither was he, so we just signed each other’s foreheads, like normal people. LOL!

    Blessed Lent,
    Deacon Bill

  8. pagansister says:

    Folks might not gotten any ashes done for various reasons and if that method worked, why not?

  9. When I lived in Europe, we often had ashes put on top of our heads. in Saudi Arabia, an underground priest put ashes on the top of our heads or on our wrists.

  10. Were they offering fries with the ashes?

    Good grief; where’s the time that is necessary for contrition to prepare for Lent? Drive through ashes are meaningless.

  11. pagansister says:

    Mary, would you rather a person receive no ashes at all?

  12. Since ashes are a sacramental, in and of themselves they do absolutely nothing. What is important is the interior disposition of the one receiving them. If the person wanting to receive them was properly disposed they would not want a drive thru reception but rather during a Mass or at least a Liturgy of the Word. Probably best for them not to receive them at all.

  13. So true, RomCath, however it would make the day easier on those of us who minister in parishes! This past Ash Wednesday, as I was leaving the church lot, I noticed a couple police cars arresting two women. They were cuffed and as I looked closer they both had ashes on their foreheads! That is a true story!

  14. But, RomCath, not knowing the interior disposition of the person, it is entirely possible they were in the proper disposed doing the drive through method—the only person who knows, which is important, is the person chosing to do it without getting out of the car. Just the fact that they would take the time to do it, IMO, means it is important to them but had no time to attend Mass.

  15. Correction: “——-they were in the proper disposition when they were doing the drive through method——–”

  16. Interesting. I didn’t realize other Christian faiths did the ashes. I thought it was just Catholics.

    I certainly wouldn’t like to see the Catholic church institute “drive-through” ashes, because it would cheapen the meaning of the ashes. The ashes have a particular meaning and as RomCath said, a person who understands that meaning is unlikely to want to receive them without some sort of serious service. And yet, the ashes are just a sacramental – an aid to grace rather than a conduit (do I have that right?) so I don’t see it as automatically disrespectful or sacrilegious like other things people do.

    And I guess since Ash Wednesday isn’t a Holy Day of Obligation, and there’s no duty to receive the ashes at all, I’m kind of touched that so many people show up.

    It’s hard for me to imagine that most people who come just for the ashes and then leave before communion are just there for a “freebie” or to “show off” that they’re Catholic. Wherever I’ve worked, I tend to feel like being Catholic is something that might be held against me, because it would mean I’m bigoted (which by some peoples’ definitions, I am) or that I’m anti-science or something like that. It always seemed sort of like I met a co-conspirator when I saw someone else with ashes: someone else “outed” as Catholic.

    Maybe some folks do it because it was something that they grew up doing and it was just something that Catholics did (the “cultural” Catholic). But I can’t help thinking that they must know the ashes have something to do with being sorry for sin and doing penance in Lent. So while it’s not really the right disposition, it at least gets them thinking in the right direction.

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