COVID inspiring creativity on Ash Wednesday

COVID inspiring creativity on Ash Wednesday
A woman prays after having the sign of the cross placed on her forehead in ash during an Ash Wednesday service. (Source: Elaine Thompson)

SARASOTA, Fla. (WWSB) - As the season of Lent begins this Ash Wednesday, the coronavirus pandemic is prompting area faith communities to think outside the box when it comes to the tradition of imposition of ashes.

While some churches will forgo the custom of receiving blessed ashes on the forehead as a sign of penitence and a reminder of mortality, others are trying a variety of workarounds.

At Church of the Redeemer in downtown Sarasota, the Rev. Charleston Wilson said the Episcopal parish will be one of a few that will actually offer ashes in person, but with a twist. “We will use long medical Q-tips,” he told ABC 7. With the priest masked, the single-use Q-tip will be used at arm’s length to make the sign of the cross on recipients’ foreheads. “The word around here is innovation,” Wilson said. “We think we’ve found a safe way to do this.”

Of course, receiving ashes is optional. “If people wish to stay in the pews, I’m sure the good Lord will be OK with it.”

Here is a sample of churches observing Ash Wednesday. If you have information about your church’s plans, let us know at

  • Church of St. Patrick, 7900 Bee Ridge Road, Sarasota: Masses have been added; ashes will be sprinkled
  • Incarnation Catholic Church, 2901 Bee Ridge Road, Sarasota: Social distancing to be observed, masks required, sprinkled ashes
  • Christ Episcopal Church, 4030 Manatee Ave W., Bradenton: Sprinkling of ashes
  • Church of the Redeemer,222 S Palm Ave, Sarasota: Imposition of ashes at distance
  • Harvest United Methodist Church, 14305 Covenant Way, Lakewood Ranch: Drive-by ashing
  • Trinity United Methodist Church, 4150 S. Shade Ave, Sarasota: Drive-by ashing

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