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Ashes to go

Rev. Megan Filer, left, places an ash cross on a visitor's forehead in the Bethany Lutheran Church parking lot. The church's Ashes To Go program provided a quick and simplified way to observe Ash Wednesday.

As the first day of Lent, Ash Wednesday is a crucial time for Christians. However, Bethany Lutheran Church, located in Columbia Heights, recognized that some people simply don’t have the time to reflect on their mortality.

That’s why on Wednesday the church gave believers a chance to practice their faith on the fly.

“Not everybody can (receive ashes) on an evening, and sometimes not everybody can do a whole worship service to begin with,” Rev. Megan Filer said.

What’s the solution? “Drive-up ministry,” as Filer called it.

Ashes To Go took place from 2 to 5 p.m. in the church parking lot. People could simply drive up and get the image of a cross smudged onto their foreheads while they remained in their cars, though recipients could get out if they wanted.

Filer, 29, and a team of volunteers administered the ashes, a Christian tradition that symbolizes that people were made from dust before God breathed life into them, and that God will return again with the promise of forgiveness.

Filer and her team also handed out cards that explained the ash ritual and included a prayer and Psalm 51, which is a plea to God to forgive transgressions.

“It’s a nice way for us to be a little bit more public, a little bit more out and open and introduce ourselves to ... our neighbors,” Filer said of Ashes To Go. “We’ve had people come from a couple other churches in town. So it’s been fun.”

In their first hour Wednesday, Filer said her team saw 10 visitors. Last year, Bethany Lutheran’s first year doing Ashes To Go, Filer said they only served 13 people total.

Because Ash Wednesday fell on Valentine’s Day this year, Filer said she brought candy hearts with Disney characters on them, to observe both holidays at once.

Filer joked that it was a lucky break that she gave up sweets for Lent this year.

“Otherwise, half those hearts would be empty,” she said, laughing.

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