Ash Wednesday is modified across the Delaware Valley for the pandemic

Ash Wednesday marks the beginning of Lent for Christians worldwide. And, like everything else for almost a year, the coronavirus pandemic changed the way ashes were distributed on the solemn day.

The big, beautiful red doors haven’t been open to the public for almost a year. And, in the midst of the pandemic, a glimpse inside, a slice of normalcy and seeing a familiar face can go a long way.

"I’m gonna cry. Well, it’s really nice because it’s our church family and we also have family that does go here," member of African Episcopal Church of St. Thomas member Jennifer Caviness said.

Caviness and her two girls, Chloe and Kira, got in line for walk-up ashes at the African Episcopal Church of St. Thomas in Overbrook during their break in online learning.

"Honestly, it’s been a long time since we’ve been at church and we were just really missing it," Caviness added.


"We have had to make some alterations in how we do that. We certainly did not want to not have services," Father Martini Shaw, of African Episcopal Church of St. Thomas, stated.

Father Shaw says they would normally have three to four in-church services Ash Wednesday, but because of COVID-19, they made a pre-recorded one available, something they have done throughout the pandemic. He used individual Q-Tips to apply ashes to members’ foreheads.

"I am grateful and then it’s a beautiful day, so it’s a perfect day to come out here and do this," church member Paula Wright remarked.

In New Jersey, First Presbyterian Church in Haddonfield offered drive-thru ashes. People simply pulled under their portico and rolled down. Their window to receive them, or just a blessing.

The Archdiocese of Philadelphia did provide in-person services at all of their parishes, but with limits on the number of people inside, social distancing and masks.

The noon mass at the Basilica of Saints Peter and Paul was also livestreamed.

A different and even strange Ash Wednesday. But, Father Shaw says it was worth it to spread hope.

"Jesus was in the wilderness for 40 days. We’ve been in this "wilderness" for, now, almost a year. But, one of the good things about when you’re in the wilderness, you don’t remain in the wilderness. You eventually come out," Father Shaw elaborated.


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