Pandemic Ponderings of the Transitional Executive Presbyter of the Presbytery of Sheppards and Lapsley

February 15, 2021

Dear friends,

In my various clergy groups, the chatter for the last few months has been about how to observe Ash Wednesday. Here is just a bit of that chatter:


  • We’re giving all our congregants small succulent plants; Lent is a time for growth and renewal.
  • We’re sending a little ash kit – with ashes and a small container of oil – and inviting our folk to mix up their own ashes and impose them on themselves during our zoom service.
  • We’re inviting our folk to make their own ashes.
  • We’re meeting in person and the ashes will be imposed by the pastor wearing gloves and mask.
  • We’re doing a drive-by where ashes will be sprinkled on the congregants’ heads by the pastor.
  • We’re having a combination pancake dinner and ash imposition. The people will drive up into the parking lot, drop off any food items they may have brought for our food pantry, receive a plate of pancakes (with syrup) and go park in one of the parking spaces. Then the pastor (gloved) will use single-use q-tips to place an ashen cross on their wrist or forehead. They can eat the pancakes in the parking lot and listen to the AM channel on their radios where we will broadcast the Ash Wednesday service of scripture and prayer. (I’ll be interested to hear how all that goes!)

And finally this one:

  • There’s already been too much awareness of our mortality this past year of pandemic. We’ve decided not to impose ashes this year. It is our symbolic fast from death and dying.

I lift these up because they illustrate the faithfulness and the creativity of pastors and worship teams who, in the face of so much this pandemic has taken from us, refuse to let it take from us this Holy Season of Lent. No matter how your church marks the day, this Wednesday – Ash Wednesday – ushers us into the season of Lent – a 40 day period (not counting the Sundays) of coming into God’s presence with intentionality and purpose. It invites us to do a kind of “taking stock” of our lives and relationships and our walk with God. Some of us may take on certain disciplines of scripture reading or mediation. Some of us may give up something to demonstrate our utter reliance on God alone.  Some of us may engage in works of compassion and generosity. Some may do a combination. But, as the liturgy puts it, “I invite you, in the name of Christ, to observe a holy Lent, by self-examination and penitence, by prayer and fasting, by works of love, and by meditating on God’s word.”

The Presbyterian Mission Agency has created a beautiful Ash Wednesday service. It consists of scripture reading and music and is lovely and meaningful. I commend it to you.

As ever in prayer,


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