PASO ROBLES — This Ash Wednesday, Feb. 17, the skies of Paso Robles will be filled with a mixture of smoke and rock music as Highlands Church will be celebrating a service that is over a thousand years old in a completely different way due to the ongoing pandemic. Highland Church announced this is how they will begin celebrating the Easter Season. Due to COVID-19 restrictions, many churches have shut down their Ash Wednesday services, which according to the church, has left many people without a way to celebrate the beginning of the Easter Season called Lent. 

“Our heart aches for people who are currently isolated and feeling like the color has been sucked out of life. This special moment of human contact is something that people will literally carry with them all day long. It says, ‘I love you.’ It says, ‘I see you.’ It says, ‘I feel your pain.’ It says, ‘we’re in this together.’ And we believe it is not just us saying this. We believe it is God who says this to us all. That’s what the Easter Season is about,” says Highlands Lead Pastor, Rev. James Baird. 

What’s unusual about Highlands Church offering this service is they are not a traditional church. On the contrary, their services all feature rock music, and their congregation identifies itself as a multi-denominational church (meaning they come from many different cultural and historical expressions of the Christian Faith). 

“We wanted to build a church where following Jesus and loving others was the most important thing. We call this ‘keeping the main thing the main thing.’ It’s this unity of purpose that has bonded our hearts over this past year and has allowed our congregation to keep asking ourselves how we can serve and love our neighbors in new ways.”

Pastor Baird and a few members will be setting up a fire pit in their parking lot across the street from Walmart in Paso Robles today to commemorate the special holiday. The fire is an invitation to everyone in the city to come and celebrate the beginning of the Easter Season together. From 7 a.m. to 10 a.m., people are invited to drive through with their loved ones and to receive the traditional symbol of the cross placed on their foreheads to carry with them throughout the day.   

Pastor Baird states that those same fires will be burning all day long and will grow into multiple fires later in the evening to welcome others to another outdoor service on the lawn at 6 p.m., where the familiar sound of the church rock band will fill the air. The morning drive-thru experience will be practicing social distancing precautions and protocols. The evening service will be socially distanced, outside, on the lawn, just like their regular Sunday worship services have been since last September. For more information, people can visit the church website at

Or they can call the church office from 9 a.m.-4 p.m. to speak with a member of the staff. Highlands Church is located at 215 Oak Hill Road, Paso Robles.