First Presbyterian Church in Sumter to host 'Drive Through Ashes'


Wednesday marks Ash Wednesday - the beginning of Lent and the 40-day season marked by repentance, fasting and ultimately celebration before Easter - and First Presbyterian Church downtown will be hosting its second-annual "Drive Through Ashes."

The Rev. Nick Cheek spoke Monday about Wednesday's services, which are open to all in the community and include the drive-through event from noon to 1:30 p.m. at 9 W. Calhoun St.

According to Cheek, most Catholics and many Protestant denominations, including Presbyterians, Methodists, Lutherans and some Baptists, commemorate Ash Wednesday, which is associated with Daniel 9:3 in the Bible.

"Ashes are the sign of repentance," Cheek said, "the sign of remembering that in our human condition we are made from dust of the earth. But, even though we're from the earth and made of dust, God can raise up hope from the ashes of our lives."

The ashes remind us who we are, in a way, he said, but also who we need in our lives - and that's God and His grace.

Last year, the church had about 25 vehicles attend the drive-through service, and none of the people were First Presbyterian members.

"It really isn't for our church. It's actually for the community," Cheek said. "We had people in tears and just needed prayer - a reminder that hope was with them."

After praying with individuals, Cheek and his wife, Ashley, who is also a minister on the church's staff, put ashes in a cross pattern on people's foreheads.

"It's amazing what just a prayer or a conversation, and you put a cross on a forehead, what that means," Cheek said. "Just even being touched on the forehead by somebody who cares for them. It was a neat experience."

According to Cheek, there will be signs on the Calhoun Street side of the parking lot to direct traffic.

The church will also be holding an Ash Wednesday Service in its sanctuary in the evening from 6 to 6:45 p.m., Cheek said.

That service will include music, confession, repentance and also the distribution of ashes.