Winter storm, pandemic spark non-traditional Ash Wednesday services around Middle Tennessee

ash wednesday
Posted at 5:44 PM, Feb 17, 2021
and last updated 2021-02-17 18:44:33-05

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — Christians around the world and Middle Tennessee celebrated the first day of Lent differently than in years past.

The pandemic had already complicated Ash Wednesday services scheduled before this week's winter weather.

At St. Patrick's Catholic Church on 2nd Avenue, help arrived 45 minutes before the midday service to clear snow from the steps, ramp and walkways.

The pastor kept a 7:00 a.m., 11:45 a.m. and 6 p.m. mass on the schedule, not knowing what turnout would be.

"We'll see what happens with the weather," Fr. John Hammond said. "If anyone is able to show up [at 6] I will be here."

Several families attended the 11:45 a.m. service.

"It's very edifying to see so many people both in the middle of a pandemic, but also even today when we have this inclement weather. It's such a beautiful thing how important people's faith is to them, and the importance of coming to church, worshiping god and receiving this beautiful ritual of the ashes today," he said.

Fr. Hammond sprinkled ashes on the heads of church-goers. Traditionally, ashes are marked in the shape of a cross on foreheads, but COVID-19 prompted the Vatican to issue the temporary change.

"Because of the pandemic, there is obviously a desire to be a little less hands-on than normal so, what we were instructed to do this year... is to sprinkle the ashes on the top of the head. That is actually something that is done in the large part of the world anyway," he said.

Many churches around the area marked the day with other socially-distanced options.

In Wilson County, Lebanon First United Methodist Church gave ashes at a drive-thru event. Car-loads of worshipers participated at noon and 4:30 p.m.

At First Presbyterian Church in Oak Hill, families were given Lent devotionals. Starting with Ash Wednesday and going through Easter, the weekly bible studies include a scripture, reflection, questions and coloring page for children.