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Given the continuing pandemic restrictions, churches and worship leaders are exploring different methods for observing Ash Wednesday, which in 2021 will arrive on February 17. We note that the Ecumenical Consultation on Protocols for Worship, Fellowship, and Sacraments is recommending that “no gatherings in any indoor venue take place for either Shrove Tuesday or Ash Wednesday in the United States.”

Some alternatives may include:

Some considerations:

  • Persons should be cautious in creating their own ashes. Ashes should not be mixed with water to create a paste. Use olive oil instead.
    • Dr. Marcia McFee of Worship Design Studio recommends that we “perhaps err this year on the side of the ‘dust’ part of ‘dust and ashes’ – inviting a ritual that involves earth/dirt. Indeed, the imagery of earth has multivalent possibilities: ‘dust you were and to dust you shall return’ as well as the way in which mud was used in healing by ancient peoples. And we could all use some healing in these times.”
    • for churches that do do choose to have an in-person gathering, all provisions of the Technical Assistance Manual must be observed. One option for Ash Wednesday is to have individual containers of ashes placed by gloved volunteers 24 hours prior to an in-person service for persons to receive during the service or as they leave, allowing them to impose the ashes individually or with their household members.
    • administering ashes, even gloved, via cotton swabs, or in a drive-thru setting, does not meet TAM provisions for safety during this season.

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