United Methodist churches from throughout the Louisiana Conference held traditional Ash Wednesday services in their sanctuaries, as well as offering unique “outside the sanctuary” opportunities for folks to receive the imposition of ashes.
One such church was Munholland United Methodist Church in Metairie, who for the second year, offered a “drive-thru” option for people “on the go.” Rev. Tim Smith, pastor, estimates that more than 1,200 people were served and that 778 cars were counted driving through to receive ashes on Wednesday.
“‘Drive-thru’ ashes is Munholland’s response to the increasing busyness of our society. We are trying to meet people where they are, assisting them in their spiritual journey. Too often we expect the people to come to us. This event is about taking the church into the community,” said Rev. Smith.
Many of the people who came through Wednesday were driving to or from work, or unable to attend services. They wanted to "start their day" with the observance of Lent and the marking of ashes, said Smith. “We even served bike riders and people who walked up to receive ashes. All were welcome.”
With each person or carload of people, church volunteers asked if there were prayer requests. Many responded with personal concerns or burdens, and received prayers along with ashes before they departed.
Those administering the ashes heard from many who came that they had participated in the drive-through option last year. “We told them, ‘We love repeat customers!’ And seriously, we were very grateful they chose to return. It speaks to the power of this event in their lives as they make their spiritual journey during Lent,” said Smith.
One woman told the Munholland UMC pastor that one of her friends asked her why she was using the drive-through rather than going to services. “She told her friend, and us, that this was the most meaningful receiving of ashes she had ever experienced in her life! That was, in part, due to the individualized prayers we had shared with her.”
The church received a wide range of local media coverage, including segments on WWL-TV
and Fox 8-TV
, as well as on WDSU-TV
’s website and a story in the New Orleans Advocate