March 1 was Ash Wednesday, and clergy from many churches put ashes on the foreheads of people who wanted to participate in the tradition. Those who had time went inside their local churches to get ashes in the shape of a cross on their foreheads. The ashes were a reminder to repent for their sins. The ashes are usually made by burning the palm leaves left over from the previous year's Palm Sunday service. People receive ashes to show penitence during Lent that leads up to Easter Sunday. The ashes symbolize that people came from dust, and they will return to dust.

Drive-thru Ash Wednesday services were available around the country as an alternative for busy people who didn't have time to go inside a local church. People who drove through received ashes on their foreheads just as if they had been inside a church.

Church in Ireland

A church in Ireland met the needs of their members when they used the drive through service on their lunch hour or while they were out running errands. A clergy person placed ashes in the form of a cross on drivers who passed through.

The drive-thru service at the St. Patrick's Church in Glenamaddy was successful, according to the photos posted on Facebook. Photos showed cars lined up and Parish Priest Fr. Paddy Mooney was seen blessing drivers and placing ashes on their forehead.

Mooney said it was a wonderful experience, and people were very thankful for the creative way of getting their ashes.

Ashes to go

Drive-thru services were available in at least 33 states across the United States in different denominations. One was the Peak United Methodist Church in Apex, North Carolina. Cars started driving through as early as 7 a.m.

Within 90 minutes, about 50 cars had passed through, and drivers received ashes from clergy. When there was a driver and a passenger, two clergy members accommodated them.

The Centenary United Methodist Church in Greensboro, North Carolina posted signs along the busy highway in front of the church. Strangers and people passing by drove through to get their ashes even if they were not members of the church.

Senior pastor Daphne Johnson of the First United Methodist Church in Clearwater, Florida summed up the idea of a drive-thru Ash Wednesday service quite well. She said a person doesn't have to attend a traditional service to get ashes. The drive-through service with ashes to go is a great alternative for many.

None of the churches who held Ash Wednesday drive-thru services regretted it. More than likely, they will do it again. When news spread about the many positive results this year, more churches will probably decide to do it next year.