Church continues drive-through Ash Wednesday service

Alabaster First United Methodist Pastor Brian Erickson, left, and Associate Pastor Miriam Smith, right, speak to a driver during the church's drive-through Ash Wednesday service on March 5. (Reporter Photo/Jon Goering)

Alabaster First United Methodist Pastor Brian Erickson, left, and Associate Pastor Miriam Smith, right, speak to a driver during the church’s drive-through Ash Wednesday service on March 5. (Reporter Photo/Jon Goering)

By NEAL WAGNER / Managing Editor

Standing in the parking lot of Alabaster’s First United Methodist Church on the morning of March 5, Pastor Brian Erickson realized how much changed when he stepped out of the church building.

“Church can be a pretty intimidating place, especially for those who haven’t been in a long time, or who have never been,” Erickson said. “It’s so frightening for folks to make that jump from the road to the front door of the church, so we are looking for anything we can do to bridge that gap.”

Erickson and Associate Pastor Miriam Smith spent a few hours in the church’s parking lot off Alabama 119 on March 5 holding the church’s second drive-through Ash Wednesday service.

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 he and Smith saw a “steady stream” of visitors throughout the morning, and said many of them were not members of the church.

“I think the really powerful part of this process is seeing the folks come through who don’t have a church home,” Erickson said. “You see people who are hurting and who are in pain. To be able to pray with them and play a role in helping them through that is great.”

Erickson said the church will continue to hold the drive-through Ash Wednesday services in the future, and could hold similar outdoor services in the future.

“To get to be a part of something this powerful, we feel really blessed,” Erickson said.