Rev. Bob Holliday
For the first time in the history of St. James UMC in Tucson, we held a special “Ashes-to-Go” drive-through in our front parking lot. St. James is located on North Campbell Avenue, a major thoroughfare in mid-town Tucson. After a few weeks of planning and getting lay members excited about a new outreach ministry, we prepared an Ash Wednesday tri-fold brochure explaining what Lent was all about, including the history and significance of Ash Wednesday, with a prayer and invitation to worship that evening.
At 6:30 a.m. on Wednesday a number of lay members and I set up a pop-up canopy and multiple signs along the curb leading up to the church parking lot that said: “Ash Wednesday – Ashes-to-Go – Drive-through ahead.” The signs had big red letters announcing “Free Coffee.” I wore my vestments and everyone took turns waving to drivers as they drove by.
From 6:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., we saw over 450 people drive through for “Ashes-to-Go.” From big delivery trucks to work crews pulling heavy equipment trailers, a diversity of people from all ages, ethnic backgrounds, and socio-economic backgrounds drove through our parking lot. People were even making U-turns to come through and receive ashes! A school bus, an on-duty police officer, Fed-Ex delivery driver, and a couple from London who wanted to have their picture taken receiving ashes so they could take it back to their church in England were a few of the many that participated in “Ashes-to-go.” One city bus driver even came back to the church on her way home because she saw us while driving on her route earlier in the day. People also made a number of financial donations throughout the day. It was an incredible experience!
At the evening Ash Wednesday worship service there were a number of new people present who drove through for “Ashes-to-Go” earlier that day. Other new people even joined us for worship on Sunday morning. In preparation for Easter, we are now working on a drive-through “Prayers-to-Go” event and look forward to another great day.
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