October 26, 2014

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Brunswick church puts drive-through spin on Lenten ritual

The Rev. Lisa O’Rear-Lassen of St. Patrick Episcopal Church in Brunswick administers ashes to Rebecca Zunt during a “drive-through ashes” event Wednesday afternoon. (LOREN GENSON / GAZETTE)

The Rev. Lisa O’Rear-Lassen of St. Patrick Episcopal Church in Brunswick administers ashes to Rebecca Zunt during a “drive-through ashes” event Wednesday afternoon. (LOREN GENSON / GAZETTE)

A Brunswick Episcopal priest is exploring a new way to reach busy people at the start of the Lenten season.

On Ash Wednesday, the Rev. Lisa O’Rear-Lassen conducted an “Ashes to go” drive-through in front of St. Patrick Episcopal Church on Center Road.

The drive-through was open to anyone of any religion.

“It’s not a sacrament; this is just a pastoral offering,” O’Rear-Lassen explained. “But people are certainly moved by the words and for many it’s a challenge to get to church.”

O’Rear-Lassen stood by the edge of the church and a number of members held signs with arrows pointing to the “drive-thru ashes” in the church driveway.

Members offered ashes to motorists during morning rush hour, lunchtime and afternoon rush hour, and a simple 30-second blessing.

O’Rear-Lassen said some critics of her ministry say her “drive-through” church cheapens the seriousness of Ash Wednesday.

She disagrees, citing the example of a woman who came through the drive-through instead of attending an evening service in order to spend more time with her husband in a nursing home.

Rebecca Zunt said she was grateful for the opportunity to get ashes.

Zunt said she was battling ovarian cancer.

“I just stopped by because I don’t have the opportunity to get out much,” she said.

O’Rear-Lassen also offered a traditional service Wednesday evening, but she said many people have difficulty getting to church in the evenings.

“Everyone is battling something,” she said. “This gives a chance to reflect on what nourishes us, and even if they can’t attend church, they still care about liturgies and God.”

Members of the church also support the drive-through, now in its second year.

Deb Hammer, a church member, took a vacation day to stand outside with other volunteers and wave signs for motorists to spot.

“I just really love this experience. It’s very emotional and it’s a nice way to reach out,” she said. “We feel like we’re helping.”

Hammer handed those who stopped an Ash Wednesday pamphlet that included a special prayer and Psalm 51.

Contact reporter Loren Genson at (330) 721-4063 or lgenson@medina-gazette.com.