oday is Ash Wednesday, marking the beginning of the Lenten season leading up to Easter. Although the pandemic has altered how houses of worship are celebrating, the tradition will carry on, of course, with some changes.

LONGMEADOW, MA (WGGB/WSHM) -- Today is Ash Wednesday, marking the beginning of the Lenten season leading up to Easter.

Although the pandemic has altered how houses of worship are celebrating, the tradition will carry on, of course, with some changes.

One year ago, Western Mass News joined the St. Andrews Episcopal Church on Longmeadow Street for their annual “Ashes to Go” event for Ash Wednesday. During the event, they offered the traditional ashes to passersby on their way to school and work.

However, this year, they're doing things differently.

“Soon after that, we had to close the doors to the church. We were not able to have in person services and everything we were doing has been happening via live stream,” said Rev. Charlotte LaForest with St. Andrews Episcopal Church.

LaForest said that in the weeks leading up to Ash Wednesday. They felt like they needed to prioritize safety over tradition.

"Our bishop has determined there’s really no safe way to do ashes to go. You can’t remain six feet from people when you’re administering ashes...We want to take what the state safety guidelines are and really exceed those, making sure we are caring for the members of our community,” LaForest added.

Instead of having to come to the church for your ashes, this year, they sent them home with parishioners in a premade kit.

“As we do the service, everyone here in the building will self-administer the ashes and then we will invite those you join us from home to do their own ashes as well,” LaForest explained.

These bags also include activities for families to do throughout the season of Lent.

“We had a couple of different bags that went out. We had one that was focused on children and families, one that was focused on teenagers, and one that went out to anyone in the parish who was interested,” LaForest added.

Even though this Ash Wednesday looks different, they hope that their extra efforts help unite their parishioners.

“We missed certainly being here together and being here in-person, but we took what was the core elements of our faith and made sure we could continue those in whatever way we could,” LaForest said.

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