UNION COUNTY, NJ – Not one to let religion get left in the dust-up of modern day life, a Westfield priest was among those clergy members to offer ashes to worshipers on the go Wednesday.

For one hour on Ash Wednesday, Father Duncan Johnston, of St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Westfield imposed ashes to anyone who drove up to the breezeway at the Chelsea at Fanwood’s assisted living residence. About 30 people drove up for the offering of ashes, and some arrived on foot, organizers said.

“Lent is an important moment for many Christians, but these days, the demands of life mean that many can’t make it to church on Ash Wednesday,” Johnston said. “It is a joy for a leader of the church to be able to come to where the people are and help them to begin Lent with this important ritual.”

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Drivers and passengers were not required to leave their cars. Duncan also visited one Chelsea resident who was unable to leave her apartment.

Ash Wednesday marked the first day of Lent an approximately 40-day time of penitence, which concludes with Easter.

While rising in popularity, the ashes-to go-initiative began over a decade ago, started by an Episcopal Church in St. Louis, NorthJersey.com reported.

The Rev. Emily Mellott, the pastor of Trinity Episcopal Church in Moorestown, who is credited with expanding the idea into a national movement, told The Record that the practice of ashes-to-go has become too widespread to track.

“It's much more likely to be near you than it was five years ago,” Mellott told the paper. "Most people stumble on it, and that's one of the nice opportunities about it is that it's a surprise encounter for many people who didn't know the church was on the streets.” 

TAPinto Scotch Plains-Fanwood Staff Writer John Mooney contributed to this report.

Email Staff Writer Matt Kadosh at mkadosh@tapinto.net; Follow him on Twitter: @MattKadosh