Ash Wednesday in a Time of COVID


Beyond the ritualistic familiarity of Ash Wednesday, this day speaks into this season of COVID. As we hear, “Remember that you are dust…and to dust you shall return” we remember that ashes have long been a symbol of our humanity and, therefore, our own mortality. This reminder of the fragility of life and our dependence upon God is an appropriate theological emphasis in the midst of a global pandemic.

However, our Reimagining Life Together Guidelines don’t allow our churches to practice this day in the ways that many of us have been used to. The health risks are too great to loosen the restrictions on mask wearing, distancing, and singing. Churches may be wondering how they can, within their approved reopening plans, have a creative and meaningful Ash Wednesday. While it may not be what they are “used to,” there are ways to think and act creatively; reimagining this start to the Lenten season.

  • A socially-distanced Drive-In or outdoor worship could be a good fit with many of our existing plans.
  • Some churches are providing ashes for families to impose at home.
  • Take-Home-Kits could include burlap swatches with ash crosses already applied for parishioners to wear.
  • Ash cross temporary tattoos may be purchased (one pastor found putting ashes on a piece of copy paper effectively made a temporary tattoo).
  • Discipleship Resources has provided a wealth of suggestions that could be adapted to approved church reopening plans.

Some of our communities have extreme outbreaks at this time. Moreover, more contagious strains of the virus are now spreading across the country. It is crucial that protocols are observed. We must continue to try to “Do No Harm” even as we provide the good of worship for our communities.

If you have further questions or concerns, please reach out to your Superintendent. 

– GNW Covid Response Team

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