CLEARWATER, Fla. - In a parking lot outside the First United Methodist Church in Clearwater, the pastor stood outside and waited for the faithful, not to attend a church service, on this Ash Wednesday, but to receive ashes.
The church was one of many across the country that are offering "Ashes to Go," a way for people to mark the beginning of Lent, the season of penance and prayer before Easter, without even having to get out of their cars.
The pastor of the church says it's also a way for them to pray with people for whatever they need, as well as bring them closer to their faith. "We get out beyond our walls. There's a lot of folks out there who have been turned off by the church, so this brings God's forgiveness out into the world," said Daphne Johnson.
It also offers an opportunity for people to pray with the pastor before work. "They ask for specific prayers. You can really see sometimes the emotion that comes into their face, I've even had folks in tears. You can just tell how much it means to them," said Johnson.
SkyCrest United Methodist Church in Clearwater also offered the service to anyone, regardless of their transportation. "We thought we would take it out into the neighborhood so that the whole community could participate," said Emily Oliver.
Signs saying "Ashes To Go" were placed out in front of the church and Oliver said the signs help spark curiosity and they reach many people outside their congregation. The church has been doing this for three years now, Oliver said, and it has grown in popularity.