Ash Wednesday to go: Priest brings ashes to parishioners

WAUWATOSA -- McDonald's and Burger King had something in common with a few churches in Wauwatosa Wednesday. For Ash Wednesday, these churches were offering drive-thru service, where pastors offered ashes to go.

In an area of Wauwatosa where there's high foot and vehicle traffic, Pastor Gary Manning of Trinity Episcopal Church, and Father Mike Barrett of St. Bernard's Parish were among those accommodating today's more modern church-goers. The men of God were offering ashes to go, for people who didn't have time to attend a church service Wednesday.

"I don't know how many times we've been uploaded to Facebook today because people have been taking pictures of us. It says something that we're out here for them, as opposed to sitting behind a wall somewhere waiting for them to show up for us," Manning said.

Manning says don't read too much into the village's first-ever outdoor Ash Wednesday event being stationed outside a Starbucks coffee shop - a staple of the grab-and-go lifestyle. "We came to where the people are," Manning said.

The men say it's a location that paid off with parishioners. "We've probably had 60 or so before lunch, and another 40 since we started back," Manning said.

Some of these parishioners seldom make their way to a church service. Traditionally, a person will attend a church service to have the ashes placed on their forehead as a public showing of repentance, so a few are at first skeptical of what's supposed to be a pious practice of faith. "I thought maybe this is just a little sacrilegious, but a way to keep up with the times. I think it's pretty neat for people who may not have time to go to Mass," one resident said.

The church leaders handed out ashes through about 4:30 p.m. Wednesday.