Wednesday provided a small break in a winter weather storm event, giving many Limestone Countians a chance to get out and stock back up on groceries, go to work or otherwise handle life before the second wave came through.
It also gave Christians a chance to participate in Ash Wednesday rituals, like the drive-up event at St. Timothy’s Episcopal Church in Athens. The Rev. Rosie Veal Eby, priest in charge at the church, and the church’s senior warden could be spotted sitting on the sidewalk outside the church’s bright red doors for two hours as Eby offered a sprinkle of ashes to those who visited.
It’s tradition to celebrate Ash Wednesday by having ashes put on one’s foreheads in the shape of the cross. The day marks the beginning of Lent and the 40-day period leading up to Holy Week and Easter Sunday.
“Because of COVID, we’re taking them and sprinkling them on people’s foreheads,” Eby explained. “The only reason I have them on my forehead is because my husband put them there.”
Palm leaves are burned to create the ashes. While some may view it as part of the tradition to have a priest put the ashes on their forehead, it’s OK for anyone to do it, Eby said.
“Some people are bringing bags for me to just put some in so they can take them home,” she said. “Some people are driving up, and I’m going around reminding them, ‘From dust they have come and to dust they shall return.’”
Eby said in addition to St. Timothy’s members, Christians from other churches had stopped by. One woman shared that she was from a local Methodist church but wasn’t able to make it for service, so she visited St. Timothy’s instead.
Many Christians also celebrate Lent by giving up something or taking on a new spiritual discipline, Eby said. At the church, congregants are reading a series together and discussing it via Zoom.
Other services at St. Timothy’s are being held online due to the pandemic. Those interested can visit St. Timothy’s Episcopal Church on Facebook to learn more.