Lent is on the horizon. Lent begins with Ash Wednesday which this year is February 17. It’s also been exactly one year, as I write this, since the first COVID-19 case was diagnosed in Massachusetts. In some ways, it feels like it’s been Lent for the whole past year. Nevertheless, we can enter this Lent with a sense of both preparation and hope. Easter will bring many blessings – better weather, a chance to start gathering in person, the opportunity to hug family and friends, and resume a more normal social life as the vaccine rolls out. Lent is a time of preparation for Easter.
This year, we will have one live-streamed service for Ash Wednesday, at 7:30 p.m. on February 17. Our bishop has issued guidance that we are not allowed to offer the imposition of ashes by the clergy. However, he’s also reminded us that there are many ways to think about the symbols of repentance and renewal, and to have a meaningful Ash Wednesday observance.
Therefore I’d like to suggest the following.
- We won’t be able to have our Shrove Tuesday pancake supper this year, but you can celebrate Shrove Tuesday at home. Eat lots of fat! Enjoy some pancakes or other treats.
- For those with children at home (or children-at-heart) you can also “bury the Alleluia” at home just like we do at church. There are some downloadable coloring pages along with a short home worship service for burying the Alleluia available here. Then you can bury the Alleluia outside in your yard, or just put it in a shoebox and “bury” it under the bed or in a closet. At Easter, bring it out to decorate your home or dinner table.
On Ash Wednesday, we’re not able to distribute ashes. However, the ashes we make at church aren’t special in any particular way (except that they are made from last year’s palms from Palm Sunday). You can definitely use ashes from your home fire place, or dirt from your yard. Or, if you happen to have palms from last Palm Sunday at home, you could burn them yourself (a small Weber or outdoor fire pit is useful for this). As you participate in Redeemer’s Ash Wednesday online service, you can use the ashes or dirt to impose ashes on yourself at that point in the worship service. Family members can also offer the imposition of ashes to each other—you don’t have to be ordained to do this!
Although there are many frustrations to the pandemic, it also offers us the opportunity to bring worship into our home and have more intimate worship experiences with our family or quarantine pod. Exploring new ways to worship at home is one good way to observe Lent this year.