British Columbia·Photos

Ash and dash: Vancouver church offers drive-thru blessings for Ash Wednesday

On Ash Wednesday, the Christian holy day of repentance and reflection that marks the first day of Lent, worshippers receive a smudge of ashes on their foreheads in the shape of a cross.

Christians receive a cross-shaped ash mark on their foreheads on the first day of Lent

Canadian Memorial United Church in Vancouver is offering drive-thru blessings for Ash Wednesday. (Gian-Paolo Mendoza/CBC)

A local church in Vancouver is making it easier for Christians to get their traditional Ash Wednesday blessing: simply honk at the drive-thru and a minister will appear.  

On Ash Wednesday, the Christian holy day of repentance and reflection, worshippers receive a smudge of ashes on their foreheads in the shape of a cross.

"It sounds a bit tongue in cheek but it is a sacred ritual," said minister Beth Hayward with the Canadian Memorial United Church.

"It's a symbol that we're made of the earth and we return to it — it's a pretty quick journey, so make intentions with your life."

'From dust you have come and to dust you shall return,' minister Beth Hayward says as she marks a cross of ash on a worshipper's forehead. (Gian-Paolo Mendoza/CBC)

Ash Wednesday marks the first day of Lent, the six-week period leading up to Easter.

"We thought it would be a nice experience to see if we could offer Ash Wednesday on the go," Hayward said.

"We have loads of people on Sunday morning, but getting them out in the middle of the week is not so easy."

Hayward says part of the idea behind the drive-thu is to make it more convenient to receive blessings for people who might not go to church otherwise. (Gian-Paolo Mendoza/CBC)

She was out early Wednesday morning, responding to honks from cars pulling into the parking lot in front of the church and passersby on their way to work.

"There are a lot of people who don't go to church anymore but it was important to them once upon a time, so we're trying to tap into that memory," she said.

'As easy as pulling in'

Gabriel Viehweger, one of the passersby who stopped for a blessing, said he likes how convenient the model is.

"It makes it more accessible to people who might not otherwise do it or might not make a practice out of spiritual ways of doing things," he said.

"It can be as easy as pulling in and changing one's intentions."

Ash Wednesday is something new to Viehweger, who was not raised with the Lenten tradition.

"To me, it represent letting go of the past and opening the door to new possibilities," he said.

Canadian Memorial United Church is also holding a traditional service on Wednesday evening.

With files from Gian-Paolo Mendoza and Jennifer Wilson

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