Ash Wednesday

Mass. Churches Add Social Distancing for Ash Wednesday Services Amid COVID

This will be the second Ash Wednesday during which the coronavirus is present in Massachusetts

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Churches have learned to adapt during the coronavirus pandemic, and Ash Wednesday will be no exception.

At Grace Episcopal in Norwood, Massachusetts, drive-thru has been the go-to. Fr. John Brockmann said they’ve done it a lot.

“We did Easter. Good Friday. Palm Sunday. And we're probably going to do those again," he said.

For Ash Wednesday, they church has already recorded a service that will go up on their website for people to watch at home. Then, from 12:30-1:30 p.m. and 5-6 p.m., people can drive through to receive their ashes in a little kit they can take home.

That prevents Brockmann from touching a lot of foreheads. The idea is that families can do it themselves -- mom takes care of dad's forehead, dad does mom's.

Families in Massachusetts are looking to do something for their kids' winter break, but options are limited as they try to stay safe amid the pandemic.

"On Holy Thursday, there's a foot washing thing and the kids love that, and they especially love doing their parents, so this is a pretty neat thing," he said.

Parishes in the Boston Roman Catholic Archdiocese will hold services in the church. They will be properly distanced, with the traditional Ash Wednesday prayer that each celebrant usually says face-to-face will instead be said once to the entire congregation.

As for the ashes, celebrants "will stand for just a moment fully masked in front of a fully masked person who will put the ashes on their head," said MC Sullivan, a registered nurse and chief health care ethicist on the archdiocese’s pandemic response team.

"It will be on the forehead, which is the traditional way. Some people will be doing it with gloves. Others will be doing it with a cotton swab which is put aside," she continued.

This will be the second Ash Wednesday during which the coronavirus is present in Massachusetts. Last year, widespread social distancing measures were ramping up to combat the pandemic.

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