Imposition of Ashes during the pandemic

The imposition of Ashes during the Ash Wednesday service is a cherished part of our Ash Wednesday liturgy as a profound sign of our repentance at the beginning of Lent. Many clergy have asked for ideas for the imposition of ashes. Two guiding principles have gone into this discussion:

⦁ Maintaining the meaning and reverence of the ritual
⦁ The need for honoring our COVID safety protocols

With these guiding principles in mind here are three suggestions:

1) Many Christians have decided to avoid physical contact while reverting to a very ancient practice of sprinkling ashes on the top of worshippers’ heads as our brothers and sisters in the Roman Catholic Church are doing.

2) The use of a q-tip, makeup wedge, or other similar object (a new one for each person) in the hand of the Officiant in order to place the traditional sign of the cross on the forehead of worshippers.

3) Understanding that the Ash Wednesday rubrics allow the service to be led by a lay person (BCP, 269), the Officiant makes ashes available in small containers for self-imposition by individuals or families.

Regardless of the method chosen the Officiant should stress adherence to COVID safety protocols especially the wearing of masks and social distancing throughout the entire service.