Ash Wednesday

Churches Make Changes for Ash Wednesday During Pandemic

From sprinkling ashes on heads to placing them on hands, churches are making changes this Ash Wednesday amidst the pandemic.

NBCUniversal Media, LLC

Ash Wednesday looks different this year.

Churches across the world are making safety changes as they prepare to observe Ash Wednesday amidst the pandemic.

Following guidance from the Vatican, priests in the Diocese of Norwich will be sprinkling ashes on top of heads instead of rubbing the ashes into foreheads.

"Not touching anything, keeping some distance," said Father Robert Washabaugh, a priest at St. Peter and Paul, St. Joseph and St. Mary churches in Norwich. “And in some places of the world, in Europe for example, that’s how they have always done it."

Churches will make some socially distant safety changes for parishioners wishing to receive ashes on Ash Wednesday this year.

St. Thomas in Southington will host its usual services, but they will be using cotton swabs to dispense the ashes.

The Kensington Congregational Church will be hosting their annual drive-thru ashes-to-go event, but this year they will only be putting ashes on hands.

“Rather than foreheads. It’s a little bit more distanced. We will be sure that we sanitize before and afterwards," said Rev. Laura Westby.

Kensington will also be hosting a pre-recorded service, joining many other churches in Connecticut hosting virtual services.

Fr. Washabaugh reminds people that while ashes are an important sign, a ritual symbolizing repentance heading into the 40 day Lenten season, they are just that.

“The real stuff is jumping into, or dipping your toe into, the fast, the prayer, the giving away," said Fr. Washabaugh. “Nothing wrong with not getting the ashes if all the other stuff happens.”

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