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Churches make adjustments to their Ash Wednesday service

Churches make adjustments to their Ash Wednesday service
The Anglican Church has pre-packaged ashes which church members may collect

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The administering of ashes on the forehead to mark the beginning of the Lenten season on Ash Wednesday is a tradition for many Christians, but this year the receiving of ashes will be done differently.

For 40 days leading up to the Easter season, Christians of the world over observe a period of Lent marked with prayer, fasting, penitence and reflection.

Tomorrow, Wednesday, February 17, is the date on the 2021 calendar for Ash Wednesday, the day on which the burned ashes of the palms from previous Palm Sundays are usually used to mark a cross on the forehead of Christians. This act is accompanied with a reminder “Repent, and believe in the Gospel” or “Remember that you are dust, and unto dust you shall return”.

In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, the local Roman Catholic and Anglican churches have made adjustments in the manner in which church members will receive blessed ashes.

An official notice sent to members of the Catholic church, reads “The customary beginning of our Lenten journey has been changed by the current Pandemic affecting the entire world. While we remain people of faith and hope, we are also cognizant of our responsibility to care for each other, especially, in not becoming agents of the spread of the Virus.”

They ask their churchgoers to bring containers to the Cathedral of the Assumption by yesterday, February 15.

“We are asking that during Ash Wednesday one person from each family come to the Cathedral to collect a container of blessed ashes,” they indicate, adding, “Do not think if you did not provide a container you cannot collect ashes.”

There will be two opportunities to administer the ashes. The first is a family service, sent out electronically, “that you can celebrate in your homes with your family.”

Those requiring a hard copy are asked to contact the office for arrangements to be made.

Alternatively, a Mass following Covid-19 protocols will be livestreamed on the Cathedral and Diocese’s Facebook pages at six tomorrow evening.

“If You follow that Mass, you will be instructed during that celebration when to administer the ashes to each other in your homes or circle,” persons are advised.

“For those who may not be able to collect the ashes on Ash Wednesday, you can still collect on Thursday or perhaps Friday,” the letter stated.

This is being seen as a chance to celebrate the domestic church “which from time immemorial have been preached, promoted and celebrated by the Universal Church.”

“…Families are asked to do things together – to pray together, recite the rosary, reflect on the word of God and follow the services from home,” Bishop Gerard County notes.

The St George’s Cathedral will be having three services, which will all follow the protocols from the Ministry of Health, accommodating 10 persons, sanitizing, mask wearing, physical distancing and temperature checks.

The Anglican Church will be facilitating the imposition of ashes in two ways. Firstly, they are packaging the ash for persons to collect, and secondly those who come to the Cathedral between services will line up, following protocols, for ash to be administered via Q-tip rather than a finger.

“…The practice of imposing ashes is a sign that we acknowledge our mortality and our need to repent and believe the Gospel,” the Right Reverend C Leopold Friday, Bishop of the Windward Islands, notes.

There will be one service at noon this Wednesday, which will be accessible via Youtube, and Facebook. The other two services will not be virtual.

In the case of the Methodist Church, there have been several times in the past when they have not used ash on Ash Wednesday and it is not a practice that they hold steadfastly to. There will be no distribution of ash this year, “But the observance of Ash Wednesday, we will find other ways of acknowledging that it is the beginning of Lent,” Reverend Adolf Davis informs.

The Church will decide by today, February 16, but they are also unlikely to have a gathering.