Detroit churches offer 'drive-through' Ash Wednesday; Catholic Church says 'not us'

Some Detroit-area churches will be offering the option of drive-through ashes on Ash Wednesday next week. But the Catholic Church says the "drive-through" mentality is not for them.

Some Detroit-area churches are gearing up to offer "drive-through ashes" for Ash Wednesday next week — but the Catholic Church says it prefers to stick with tradition.

Drive-through ashes offer an option for those too busy to attend church to receive the traditional cross of ashes without even stepping out of their cars.

But the Archdiocese of Detroit told MSN News that the "drive-through mentality" is not something Catholics practice, especially during Lent.

"What we prefer is people come to mass and if they are unable to come to mass, then they come to a scripture service," said Joe Kohn, a spokesman for the Archdiocese of Detroit. "For those who are homebound, someone will take the ashes to them. It's not really the drive-through mentality for us when it comes to prayer, penance and goodwill."

Kohn said that he was not going to criticize other churches for what they might do on Ash Wednesday, which marks the first day of Lent. "In the Catholic Church, we like to slow down and spend some extra time with God and our community during this time," he said.

Pastor Ian Twiss of Holy Faith Church — a Lutheran and Episcopal congregation in Saline, Mich., that will be hosting drive-through ashes for the second time — defended the contemporary spin on Ash Wednesday.

"I understand that some people might feel that it takes away the spirit of Lent," he said. "But I would rather err on the side of generosity than stinginess. The idea of offering others a ritual freely really appealed to me last year — the church needs to get outside its own walls and engage people."

Twiss stressed that drive-through services were not a substitute for traditional services. Apart from offering traditional Ash Wednesday services this year, Twiss will be offering drive-through ashes at a Park & Ride and an assisted-living facility.

"Last year people pulled into the parking lot of the church, rolled down their windows and I marked a cross of ashes on their forehead," Twiss said. "Some of them were strangers. It really surprised me how grateful people were. I guess I felt really humbled."

Other churches holding drive-through services in the Detroit area include Novi United Methodist Church, Grace Episcopal Church and St. Barnabas Episcopal Church.

Susan Cummings, who attends Holy Faith, said drive-through ashes were a great way to make sure everybody had the opportunity to prepare for Easter.

"We couldn't make it to the service last year so I, my husband and my son piled into a car and drove to the parking lot of the church," she said. "And there was Pastor Ian, holding a little container of ashes. The whole thing took four, maybe five minutes."

Cummings said she didn't feel drive-through ashes took away from the significance of Ash Wednesday.

"It all depends on how you see what is important that day," she said. "For me, it's about how it all started — focusing on that one small thing."

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