Finding Creative Ways to Observe Ash Wednesday and Lent

This Ash Wednesday, some churches are hosting “bring-your-own-ashes” services on Zoom. Others will administer ashes with disposable swabs, applied by masked ministers to worshippers in a drive-thru ritual. Still others are creating containers of ashes for pick up and Lent kits for at-home practices.

“This pandemic has brought great creativity to our congregations,” says Conference Minister Rev. Shari Prestemon. “I’ve heard a marvelous array of ideas from all corners of the state about how our churches are observing Ash Wednesday and planning for Lent.”

Pulling Out All the Stops
First Congregational UCC in Moorhead is an example of this creativity. Rev. Michelle Webber (pictured above) says the church created ashes on seed paper crosses for every church member. “We had an opportunity for folks to pick them up at church before we mailed them and it was so much fun,” she says. “It was way below zero, but both of us at church went out to every car together because the fellowship of seeing our people, even masked, through a car window, warmed our hearts so much! We will use these crosses for a virtual imposition of ashes on Zoom. Everyone will be encouraged to plant their ash crosses so that we will see new life grow out of our ashes.”

As for Lent, First Congregational UCC is using resources from The Salt Project to bring focus to the season. Check out the video on Facebook. The church will also host a talk show-style Zoom every Wednesday night during Lent. “We’ll have special guests from our church who have found a way to meet Jesus in the messiness of the past year,” says Webber. “Our topics are prayer and meditation, with our pets, in chaplaincy work, in creativity, in doubt, in music.”

Focusing on Giving To Instead of Giving Up
During Lent, the Open and Affirming Coalition of the United Church of Christ is hosting a contemplative service of Taizé morning prayer at 8 and 10 am (CST) in the Coalition’s Zoom Chapel. “Many of us are wondering how we can observe Lent this year: many of us feel that Lent 2020 never ended, and after a year of restrictions and sacrifice we’ve had enough of ‘giving up,'” say the group leaders. “But Lent is also about giving to: works of love are an ancient spiritual practice during Lent. And so is prayer.” Each service is about 20 minutes and draws from ancient Christian practices of daily prayer, in inclusive, non-binary language. You can join on Zoom or Facebook Live.

Building Practices at Home
The Conference is offering weekly toolkits to help families build at-home practices during Lent. See the article below for more information and bookmark this link to check on updated content, released every Wednesday.

Tell Us What You’re Doing!
What is your church doing this Lenten season? We would love to hear and feature the creativity of our Conference. Please tell us what you’re doing and send pictures!