Ash Wednesday goes DIY at this church due to COVID-19

·2 min read
'We knew that we couldn't do what we had done in the past — or at least it didn't feel right that we should' says Archdeacon John Clarke at St. Paul's Anglican Church in Charlottetown.
'We knew that we couldn't do what we had done in the past — or at least it didn't feel right that we should' says Archdeacon John Clarke at St. Paul's Anglican Church in Charlottetown.

(Sheehan Desjardins/CBC - image credit)

Sheehan Desjardins/CBC
Sheehan Desjardins/CBC

Ash Wednesday was a do-it-yourself affair at St. Paul's Anglican Church in Charlottetown, thanks to COVID-19.

Ash Wednesday is an important day for many Christians, marking the first day of the period of Lent leading up to Easter. Officiants usually use a thumb or finger to mark the foreheads of the faithful with a smudge of ash, symbolizing death and repentance.

But not during a global pandemic.

"We knew that we couldn't do what we had done in the past — or at least it didn't feel right that we should," said Archdeacon John Clarke, rector at St. Paul's Anglican Church. "Getting so close to somebody, imposing ashes on them."

The ashes come from burning the palm fronds from the previous year's Palm Sunday, Clarke said.

So St. Paul's developed what Clarke calls "bubble ashes." Groups or bubbles of family and friends can take a small plastic cup from the Wednesday night service and use them at home.

Sheehan Desjardins/CBC
Sheehan Desjardins/CBC

"They can use them as they wish — they can make the sign of the cross on their forehead, on the foreheads of the other people in their bubble, they can make the sign of a cross on a rock, or a piece of wood, or sprinkle them in the garden or in a houseplant."

Clarke said he'd love to hear other ways people use the ashes.

On P.E.I., churches that are able to do so safely are open, and are permitted to host one or two cohorts of 50 people. Households on P.E.I. may host 10 additional individuals as well as household members.

He said so far the reaction from parishioners has been positive.

Clarke said the pandemic has been a "huge challenge" for St. Paul's, especially as it is a very gregarious church known for its close-knit but very warm and welcoming atmosphere.

Sheehan Desjardin/CBC
Sheehan Desjardin/CBC