The Rev. Dawn Lynn Check and her dog Daisy stood outside First United Methodist Church in Greensburg on Wednesday, putting ashes on the forehead of anyone who wanted them.
A sign near the church door read “Get your ASH in here.”
Check said the cheeky messaging is part of an effort to reach people who might not go to church otherwise.
“It’s a little racy, and it’s funny, because some of my older members raised an eyebrow a little bit,” she said.
She told those members that the objective was to connect with a younger audience.
“It also shows that we’re speaking their language, and we’re not afraid to be a little saucy, and that’s OK,” she said.
Check spent about an hour standing outside and administered ashes to dozens of people, many of them students from nearby Seton Hill University. Some didn’t even leave their cars.
“I was standing on the street this morning in crazy freezing weather, giving out ashes to students,” Check said.
Though it is most commonly associated with the Catholic church, marking Ash Wednesday has become increasingly popular in Protestant denominations, Check said.
“I think there’s a desire to reclaim our spirituality, but to do so in a different way,” she said.
The church also offered a free lunch.
“You can’t just have a sign that says ‘Welcome,’ Check said. “You have to actually be outside.”
Its a strategy she’s followed since taking over at the church in July. On Halloween, she and other church members dressed in costume and handed out Halloween candy.
She said her methods are a little surprising, and that’s the point.
“I think it’s good to shock people with love,” she said.