This drive-thru in Omaha didn't serve up burgers, fries or other fast food.

Instead, drivers left with a blessing and ashes to mark the beginning of Lent, a period in the Christian calendar that focuses on repentance, fasting and reflection.

Countryside Community Church offered ashes “to go” from 7 to 8:30 a.m. Wednesday, which is Ash Wednesday.

This was the first time the church has offered ashes to go, said the Rev. Dr. Chris Alexander. The goal, she said, was to reach people early so they can reflect on the beginning of Lent all day.

“It’s not about getting ashes on your forehead to check it off your list of things to do, but rather to be intentional about your spirituality,” Alexander said. “You literally carry a mark with you all day long.”

The church offers an Ash Wednesday service at 7 p.m. But receiving ashes in the evening can shorten the time for reflection, Alexander said.

The drive-thru event let people drive to the church’s drop-off area and, after a brief conversation, Alexander offered a blessing and ashes. It was open to the public.

Eileen Burke-Sullivan, vice provost for mission and ministry at Creighton University, said getting ashes in such a way could take away some of the meaning of the day.

“The meaning is putting yourself into a relationship with the community and acknowledging within the community that all is not well and we need God’s mercy,” Burke-Sullivan said. “It’s not in ashes themselves. Ashes are a symbol or a sign, but they’re not magic.”

Having one-on-one interaction, like what was offered at Countryside, is good, Burke-Sullivan said. Getting ashes on the go could be the second-best option if someone can’t make it to a church service, she said.

Alexander said the to-go aspect won’t remove the sacred nature of Ash Wednesday.

“Sacredness is something that no matter where we are, we’re in the midst of it,” she said. “To bring our rituals into the … community is an amazing opportunity to meet God where God is, not just to bring people into our church.”

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