Several local churches offer ‘drive-thru’ ashes

EAST PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – For the first time since 1945, Feb. 14 marks not only Valentine’s Day, but Ash Wednesday as well.

To observe the holy day, Christians across the world will gather to pray and receive ashes during church services.

However, with Ash Wednesday falling in the middle of the workweek, it’s not always easy or possible for the faithful to attend services early in the morning or later in the evening.

In response, several churches have come up with a unique solution: ashes on the go.

Newman Congregational Church in East Providence is one such parish.

“We do a service still in the evening but that may not be easy for folks to get to,” said Timothy Sylvia, Newman Congregational’s pastor. “This is just a great way, starting very early in the morning, for folks to drive in on their way to work. It takes just a moment for them to stop in and receive the ashes and head on about their day, so it’s very convenient for folks.”

Those looking to receive ashes can drive up between 6:30 and 9 a.m. Wednesday.

Ash Wednesday is one of the holiest days of the year for Christians, with ashes meant to symbolize mortality and encouraging introspection at the beginning of Lent. The tradition of placing ashes on the forehead is centuries old, started by Pope Gregory.

Providence Catholic Diocese Bishop Thomas Tobin will preside over an Ash Wednesday Mass at the Cathedral of Saints Peter and Paul in Providence at noon.

Though it may be Valentine’s Day as well, Bishop Tobin said earlier in the week that Ash Wednesday observances such as fasting and abstinence from meat must still be observed by local Catholics. He suggested they move Valentine’s Day celebrations by a day.