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Rochester churches modify Ash Wednesday services

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ROCHESTER, Minn. (FOX47) -- The ashes are ready, and so are the hand sanitizer and masks. It's going to be a different start to Lent this year for Christians. Traditions will be tweaked.

"People are used to being signed on their forehead with the sign of the cross. This year they are going to be sprinkled with ashes on the top of their head, so it is contactless," Matt Maus said. Maus is the Director of Liturgy & Music at St. Pius X in Rochester.

"The pandemic has pushed us into a whole new frontier," Pastor Aaron Justice said. Justice is the Lead Pastor at Homestead United Methodist Church, also in Rochester.

"It has been a different world with COVID," Maus said.

Some churches, like Holy Spirit Catholic in Rochester will be offering drive-up ashes. That's from 7 to 8 a.m. Others like The Church of Resurrection and St. Pius will offer additional times for online watchers to stop by to receive communion and get sprinkled with ashes.

"Right now at the Church of St. Pius we have no available spots. All of our pre-registration spots are full," Maus said.

Some churches have been actually forced to cancel Ash Wednesday services altogether. Homestead Church is one of those.

"Ash Wednesday is really, the traditional ashes on the forehead and we have our services. This year, so we use our brains and don't make anyone sick, we aren't doing anything as a gathered church," Pastor Justice said.

"We do have an ashes distribution in the church tomorrow after our 5:30 mass. Those who watch virtually online will be able to come after that 6:30 time and receive ashes and communion," Maus said.

"It's been really tough, but in that toughness, it's been a really great opportunity because it pushes us to be more creative," Justice said.

"If they are looking for a place to go they can look at different websites of parishes around town to find a place to receive ashes and communion if they wish," Maus said.

Some churches have yet to go back to in-person services. Others are back with strict COVID-19 guidelines. For instance at the Church of St. Pius X, under restrictions it seats 89 people. Before COVID-19, at full capacity it seats a congregation of 756.

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Kamie Roesler

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