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For many churches, Ash Wednesday services looked different this year. To comply with social distancing guidelines, services had to be smaller and pastors had to find new ways to distribute repentance ashes and communion. 

Gail Trippett, a nun at St. Rita’s Catholic Church, said the pandemic caused several major changes to the predominately Black church’s Ash Wednesday service.  
This year, St. Rita’s held a joint service with Holy Angels Catholic Church, with roughly 48 masked worshippers in attendance. Instead of Father Andy Syberg drawing a cross in ashes on the foreheads of congregants, the ashes were sprinkled over their heads to avoid direct contact.  

Trippett said the church changed the way it offers communion, as well. Instead of having it in the middle of the service, it was offered at the end as people walked out. This reduced the number of people sharing a space without a mask on, but still allowed for congregants to get a sense of normalcy in a year that’s been anything but.   

Ash Wednesday commemorates the beginning of Lent, the 40-day period leading to Easter Sunday when Christians “replicate” Jesus Christ’s sacrifices, often by giving up certain things, such as sugar, alcohol or meat.  
In the middle of a pandemic, some, including Brandon King, feel they’ve already given up so much over the past year. 

“I already don’t see my friends and family because of the pandemic,” King said. “I’ve cut back on a lot of stuff to save money, so it’s hard to figure out what else I’m supposed to give up.” 

King, who doesn’t attend church but observes Lent on his own, said he is thinking about giving up social media for 40 days, but is worried about losing his connection to his family in Fort Wayne even more than he already has.  

Trippett, however, referred to Lent as a season of personal and spiritual growth, and said you don’t necessarily have to give up any worldly comforts. Instead, she recommends making a “spiritual sacrifice,” something that will help bring you closer to God.  

“If you’re a person who gets angry easily, try to give anger up during this Lent season,” Trippett said. “Figure out what you can put in place to help you develop the discipline needed to cultivate patience. It’s still a sacrifice, but it’s spiritual, it’s how you become a new creation.” 
 
Contact staff writer Breanna Cooper at 317-762-7848. Follow her on Twitter @BreannaNCooper. 

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