Alabaster church holds drive-through Ash Wednesday

Published 2:20 pm Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Alabaster First United Methodist Pastor Brian Erickson puts ashes on the forehead of a woman during the church's drive-through Ash Wednesday on the morning of Feb. 13 as Associate Pastor Miriam Smith looks on. (Reporter Photo/Jon Goering)

By NEAL WAGNER / City Editor

Early on the morning of Feb. 13, Alabaster First United Methodist Church Pastor Brian Erickson frequently found himself standing in the cold rain in the church’s parking lot. But the experience turned out to be one of the most memorable during his time as a pastor.

“It was one of the most powerful ministries I’ve been a part of,” Erickson said after he, Executive Pastor Mike Densmore and Associate Pastor Miriam Smith donned their robes and held a drive-through Ash Wednesday service from about 5:30-7 a.m. “Ash Wednesday is one of my favorite days in the Christian year.”

In the Christian faith, Ash Wednesday marks the beginning of the Lenten season, which runs through Easter Sunday. During Ash Wednesday services, many churches save the ashes of the previous year’s Palm Sunday branches and use the ashes to mark crosses on church members’ foreheads.

The services are held in honor of the Genesis 3:19 Bible verse, which reads “By the sweat of your brow you will eat your food until you return to the ground, since from it you were taken; for dust you are and to dust you will return,” Erickson said.

The Lenten season is meant to be a time of repentance, sacrifice and reflection leading up to Easter, Erickson said.

As cars drove into the church’s parking lot, Erickson and his fellow pastors walked up to the drivers’ windows and held brief Ash Wednesday services and prayed with them.

“It was very powerful. Several people had tears in their eyes when we walked up to their windows,” Erickson said, noting the church served about 35-40 cars during the drive-through service.

The church was still scheduled to hold a traditional Ash Wednesday service in its sanctuary on Feb. 13, but the drive-through service offered an innovative way to reach out to the community, Erickson said.

“I wouldn’t want to have a drive-through service for any of the sacraments, like weddings,” Erickson said with a laugh. “But for some, a church building is very intimidating. It was an honor serving both church members and non-members today.”