Drive-Thru Ash Wednesday Tradition Continues to Grow

"They were deeply grateful that we were offering this opportunity..."

WBEN Newsroom
February 25, 2020 - 6:58 pm
Calvary Episcopal Church

Mike Baggerman


BUFFALO (WBEN) - Ash Wednesday is far from the jubilant celebration of Easter Sunday. 

"It's a way of annually reminding of our mortality," said Calvary Episcopal Church Rector Robert Harvey. "One day, each one of us is going to die - we live in a society where we deny death or pretend it's not really there or it's not really real, but Ash Wednesday is our annual reminder that we are, in fact, going to die one day."

Of course, the main tradition associated with Ash Wednesday is the cross-shaped ash marking placed on the foreheads of those who observe. The ashes are a mixture of palm oil and burned palm leaves that were used in the previous year's Palm Sunday celebration.


One of the newer traditions, however, is the sort of drive-thru style ashes that observers can receive at a lot of places of worship - like  Calvary Episcopal Church, for example.

"It's a drive-thru through the church where people can come through our parking lot and receive ashes right from their car - they don't even need to get out of their car," said Harvey. "We put some ashes on their forehead in the form of a cross and say, 'Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return.'"

Harvey says the new tradition is starting to garner a lot of participation because of people's hectic lifestyles.

"The idea has come as we've noticed people just don't have the time to go to a service anymore," he said. "We don't have a lot of people who attend it because they have to work - many of the people that came through our drive-thru last year told me, 'I'm working two and three jobs and just don't have the time to get to a service on Ash Wednesday,' so they were deeply grateful that we were offering this opportunity to come get their ashes."

This is going to be the fifth year that Calvary Episcopal is doing it, and it's really seen exponential growth since its inception - 56 people in the first year, 71 people in the second, 109 in 2018, and 189 people last year. For this Ash Wednesday, Harvey is expecting that they break the 200 barrier.

Listen to his full comments below:

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