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C of E: Ashes should only be sprinkled on recipient's head during Lent

by Chantalle Edmunds

The Church of England has said imposition of ashes will be permitted during Ash Wednesday but not in the traditional way.

New guidance stated that in churches, choosing to remain open for public worship, the minister involved should stand at arm's length from the recipient and sanitize their hands immediately before the imposition of ashes begins. 

Wearing a face mask, the minister should then sprinkle the ashes on each person's head, without touching them or speaking any words.

"If the minister accidentally touches the recipient, they must sanitize hands again. The temptation should be resisted to use a single use implement to apply ash to the forehead," the guidance continued.

The Church of England added that if ash is produced locally, it should be done in a hygienic manner and as the ash will be sprinkled and not daubed, the addition of oil "may not be necessary." 

"The imposition of ash in places other than the church or churchyard is not recommended. Ministers may wish to encourage the imposition of ash within households, especially if public worship is not taking place," the guidance added.

Prior to the pandemic, on Ash Wednesday, a minister would mark a cross on the forehead of each recipient, saying the words: "Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return. Turn away from sin and be faithful to Christ."

It's not required that a worshipper wear ashes for the rest of the day, although some Christians choose to do so. 

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