‘Ashes to Go’ caters to drive-thru Ash Wednesday crowd in Slidell

Father Harry Jenkins thrust his arm into the window of a pickup that pulled off the road in Slidell, dabbing the driver’s forehead with ashes and offering a blessing. The pickup pulled away, only to be replaced by a sedan.

Behind it, the line began growing. Two cars. Then three. 

“It’s been busy,” Jenkins said. “Really busy.”

For the sixth consecutive year, motorists have been able to receive Lenten “Ashes to Go” from clergy assembled in the parking lot of Christ Episcopal Church in Slidell. The church’s entrance on Seventh Street became a drive-thru for several hours on Ash Wednesday (Feb. 14).

Morning and afternoon drive-thru sessions were scheduled, as were services inside the church, Jenkins said.

“It’s almost like a whole other congregation,” Jenkins said of the motorists and their passengers.

The drivers and passengers joined thousands of Christians across the metro area Wednesday who took part in the tradition of receiving the sign of the cross on their foreheads to usher in the season of Lent.

The ashes-to-go concept isn’t new, or unique to Christ Episcopal. But it’s become more popular with drivers and grows each year. Jenkins, the rector at the church, said some 600 vehicles pulled through the drive-thru in 2017.

Jenkins said the drive-thru is an effort to reach more people, but will never take the place of actual Ash Wednesday church services.

“We don’t try to replace the services with this,” he said. “We still have a service at noon and then at 7 p.m. But this is for people who basically can’t get to their church or a service.”

Louvina Hunt, who is Catholic, said she comes by each year.

“We have trouble getting around,” she said of herself and passenger Marie Faciane. “I love it.”

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