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Local 5 - weareiowa.com | Des Moines Local News & Weather | Des Moines, Iowa

Metro churches adapt Ash Wednesday services to keep congregation safe

Heartland Presbyterian Church will be holding outdoor drive-thru services, while St. Anthony Catholic Church will sprinkle the ashes on top of the head.

DES MOINES, Iowa — Another pandemic pivot, this time for churches across central Iowa that participate in Ash Wednesday services. Some churches are altering the way their services look to keep everyone safe.

Ash Wednesday is the start of the Lenten period, with the Ashes symbolizing death and repentance 

"It's time set aside by the church to call us to a deeper renewal of our faith and our trust in the Lord Jesus Christ," Pastor Frank Chiodo of St. Anthony Catholic Church said.

A trust that will start off differently this year for those in the Catholic church.

The Vatican sent down rules which mentioned the placing of ashes across any member of the congregation's forehead is not allowed due to COVID-19.

To stay safe, Chiodo say the priest or pastor will address the congregation with the phrase "remember you are dust, to dust, you shall return." 

Parishioners will then walk forward one-by-one, socially distanced, and then have the ashes sprinkled on top of their heads.  

Chiodo also said sprinkling the ashes on top of someone's head is an ancient custom and still practiced in parts of Europe. 

At Heartland Presbyterian Church, Pastor Alex Thornburg said he will still be placing ashes across foreheads during their service.

However, to stay COVID-19-friendly, the service will be outside and in a drive-thru style. 

It will be the first time Thornburg will see some of his congregation in a worship capacity in over a year, so he still wanted the service to be special.

"We thought it had some risk to it, but it would make it more meaningful for that kind of interaction," Thornburg said. 

Chiodo hopes everyone showing up to the services understands the changes and appreciates them still participating in the celebration. 

Ash Wednesday English services at St. Anthony Catholic Church start at 8:30 a.m. and 5:30 p.m. Their Spanish services start at 4 and 7 p.m.

Heartland Presbyterian Church will be holding their Ash Wednesday services from 5-7 p.m.

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