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In observance of Ash Wednesday, Aldersgate United Methodist Church and Westminster Presbyterian Church were offering ashes on the foreheads of those driving through or stopping by community locations.

At Aldersgate United Methodist Church, Pastor Joseph Rafique and other members of the congregation were available in the church parking lot, 8320 South St., administering “drive-through” ashes from 7:30 to 9 a.m. and will be out again from 5:30 to 6:30 p.m. for those who are unable to attend the 7 p.m. service.

Rafique first offered drive-through ashes last year as a way to take the church out to the people.

Elsewhere, members of Westminster Presbyterian Church are out in the community to administer ashes. They offered application of ashes from 8 to 10 a.m. at Meadowlark Coffee & Espresso, 17th and South streets, and will offer ashes from 1 to 2 p.m. on the University of Nebraska-Lincoln campus (see Facebook and Twitter location details).

A smudge of ashes in the shape of a cross is the telltale symbol of Ash Wednesday, the day that marks the start of the Lenten season.

The imposition of ashes dates back centuries. It is said to remind humans that one day they will die -- and return to the dust from whence they came.

Ash Wednesday marks the start of 40 days of reflection, soul searching, penance and fasting, which prepares Christians for the resurrection of Christ and their own redemption, according to Catholic publications.

The concept of taking Ash Wednesday services outside the church became popular in 2007 when churches across the country offered “Ashes to Go,” taking the blessed ashes and Lenten cards to the public spaces including malls, traffic lights and city parks.

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