It’s 40 days until Easter, which means Lent has officially begun. It’s an important time for people in the Christian community, but in response to COVID-19 safety measures, many will be practicing traditions in a different way.
Ash Wednesday marks the official start of Lent. Ashes are typically marked in a cross on the forehead.
“It marks a time in a change in the seasons,” Bishop Chris Harper, Anglican Diocese of Saskatoon said.
“Sprinkling of ashes goes back historically a long way especially in biblical times to show repentance to show change and reconciliation.”
Grosvenor Park United Church has closed its physical location and has been hosting online services, but wanted to make people feel more connected than watching a video for Lent.
Parishioners were sent care packages, including purple wrist bands to wear on Ash Wednesday.
“This is instead of doing ashes on foreheads or hands because we can’t get close enough to people to do ashes,” clergyperson Nobuko Iwai said.
Beyond Ash Wednesday, they also received a cartoon image of Jesus wearing a mask. They are being encouraged to take pictures of the cartoon with loved ones or at moments when they see acts of kindness.
“They will send it to me and we’ll put together something for Easter that will talk about resurrection and where we see Jesus in the world,” Iwai said.
“We’re trying to engage people’s senses so that they’re actually doing something and participating in the life of the work.”
There are some churches opting to remain open with health guidelines in mind. However, many traditions can’t be practiced while being physically distanced.
“It’s been a great challenge to all the churches and all the faiths throughout the province of Saskatchewan and across our land. Especially trying to deal with and anticipate the pandemic,” Bishop Harper said.
However, there is some silver lining. People who weren’t able to attend mass prior to the pandemic, like elderly seniors at retirement homes, can now take part in online services.
“Now they can attend church and be part of church in new ways,” Bishop Harper said.
Lent comes to an end at Easter on April 4.