Central Arkansas Christians can mark the start of Lenten season next week without leaving the warmth of their car, truck or SUV.
Imposition of ashes will occur from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Ash Wednesday in the parking lot of Westover Hills Presbyterian Church, 6400 Richard B. Hardie Drive in Little Rock, the congregation's minister, Robert Lowry, said.
A full-blown traditional Ash Wednesday service will follow that evening at 5:30.
"The ashes are the remnants of prior years' palms from Palm Sunday. They are burned, and then the ash is ground and added to it is a little frankincense and a little olive oil," he said.
The Presbyterians are teaming with members of Sister Thea Bowman Inclusive Catholic Church to mark the season of preparation that precedes Easter.
The Inclusive Catholic Church holds its services in the Presbyterian church's chapel.
Ash Wednesday follows Fat Tuesday and is "the beginning of the season of penitence," Lowry said.
"Not all traditions have always celebrated it. For a long time, Presbyterians did not, but in the last centuries, it's become a tradition in the Presbyterian Church as a focus on prayer and a focus on the season [and] the disciplines of Lent," he said.
These days, it's "a fairly standard part of the year of church," he said.
Carol-Ann Blow, an Inclusive Catholic Church deacon, said the use of ash is a reminder of mortality.
"We say, 'From dust you come, and from dust you will [return],'" she said.
Worshippers have a cross traced upon their foreheads, a reminder of Christ's passion and death.
"When we make the sign of the cross, we remember what he sacrificed for us," she said.
Lowry said Ash Wednesday helps us "remember that we are all mortal, we are all sinners who fall short of the glory of God and we are all worthy of God's forgiveness, which is what the day is really about."
"It's a reminder not just of our own sinfulness but also of God's grace and mercy," he said.
For those who want a longer, more traditional Ash Wednesday observance, the evening service includes Scripture readings, liturgy and hymns.
Members from both churches will participate.
It's not unusual for the two congregations to join forces from time to time, Blow said.
"We've done things together at Christmas and Easter. The pastor there is very affirming and we work together well," she said.