An Ohio pastor, inspired by Jesus' "outdoors" ministry, has decided that her church will be giving worshipers the opportunity to participate in a drive-thru service on Ash Wednesday.
Ash Wednesday is a sacred day in the Christian calendar as it ushers in the 40-day season of Lent. Christians around the world kick off the 40-day period of observance and fasting by donning a cross on their foreheads with ash, which symbolizes mourning and repentance.
Mount Healthy United Methodist Church will be offering two Ash Wednesday services Wednesday, one of which will be an experiment for the Cincinnati church.
From 5-6 p.m. in the church parking lot, Lent observers will be able to participate in a "Drive-Thru Ashes" service.
"On Ash Wednesday, try out 'Drive-Thru Ashes' if you want to try something new and informal or don't have time for a church service," the church website reads.
The new initiative is being carried out by Pastor Patricia Anderson Cook, who said the idea came to her through prayer as a way to reach out to people from various walks of life that might be having personal issues, mobility issues, or just feel more comfortable worshiping in their vehicles.
"For whatever reason. Whether they just can't schedule a full service, or they're afraid to come in, or they're longing for something they had in their childhood," Cook told The Christian Post.
As today will be the first ever "Drive-Thru Ashes" service at the Mt. Healthy United Methodist Church, organizers are uncertain what the turnout will be.
"We don't know if we'll have two or 200, but we know that we'll be there for them," Pastor Cook said.
Despite some push-back from a few church members, Cook decided to go ahead with today's initiative in hopes of reaching people who might otherwise not show up for an Ash Wednesday service.
"I thought about what Jesus would do and I'm pretty sure he wouldn't require a mass or a worship service," Pastor Cook said. "I'm pretty sure he was out there healing people and touching them with his fingers, even healing someone with spit and dirt, and healing their eyes.
"Jesus was an outdoors kind of guy. He came to where they (the people) were and I want to come where people are comfortable."
Although Pastor Cook is unsure of how the event will turn out, she is certain that whoever shows up will be treated as any other worshiper.
"God's grace is free to all and we'll be there to share it. While I'm a little apprehensive, I am as excited and filled with joy as I can be," she said.
Other churches have also planned non-traditional ways to reach out to worshipers on Ash Wednesday. Over 70 Episcopal parishes across the United States will be offering people "ashes on the go."