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'Ash And Dash:' Churches In Pittsburgh Hold Ash Wednesday With COVID-19 Mitigation Efforts

WHITE OAK (KDKA) - It's Ash Wednesday which means the Lenten season has officially kicked off. Parishes around Pittsburgh are giving out ashes, but it will be different this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Roman Catholic parishes won't be placing ashes on people's foreheads. Instead, the ashes will be blessed, sprinkled with holy water and then sprinkled on the top of parishioners' heads.

The Catholic Church isn't the only one changing things up this year due to the pandemic. Even the Ash and Dash drive-thru event in White Oak was different this year due to COVID-19.

They joined forces with Sampson's Mills Presbyterian Church. The event took place in the parking lot of Faith Lutheran Church from 6 a.m. until 9 a.m. along Lincoln Way.

One by one, the cars lined up in the parking lot.

"I work two jobs and so I work today during the day and tonight, so I don't have time to go," said Joann Villella.

Time is everything, and this year, so is safety.

"This year is a little different because it's the time of COVID and we can't go and put ashes on people's forehead, so we are giving away patches marked with a cross," said Sampson's Mills Presbyterian Church Pastor Jessica McClure.

It was a drive-thru or walk-in event, however, due to COVID-19 concerns and to respect social distancing, they distributed small cloth patches with ash crosses on them.


"It's a sign of remembering that we are mortal and that we are fragile and we are also people who make mistakes and are in need of God's grace," said McClure.

Tom McFadden said safety is what's most important.

"There's no difference. It's a symbol so I think it's a good idea actually," said McFadden.

"It's different but I think we have to come up with creative ways to continue our faith and celebrations and things that are meaningful to us," said Kathy Jo Pollack.

If you missed this Ash and Dash, never fear. Faith Lutheran Church is distributing ashes all day, only they'll be using a clean Q-tip to mark the sign of the cross on your forehead.

"That way we can stay far enough away. We think it's a safe and responsible way," said Faith Lutheran Church Pastor Michael Ryan.

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