BRAZOS COUNTY, TX — Ash Wednesday will mark the beginning of Lent this week, an important occasion for many followers of the Christian faith.
Typically, worshipers might attend an Ash Wednesday service. In the Brazos Valley, however, both the pandemic and the recent winter storm may prevent people from flocking to their houses of worship. Some churches, like St. Andrew’s Episcopal in Bryan, are considering their options should the roads remain slick with ice.
"We would cancel in-person worship, said Father Daryl Hay, senior priest at St. Andrew's. "And I would live stream a service on Facebook.”
Friends Congregational Church and Covenant Presbyterian Church in College Station encourage their members to self-administer ashes while watching online sermons. Father Will Straten of St. Mary’s Catholic Center in College Station said his church will continue to host in-person services, even during bad weather.
"We will encourage people not to drive if the weather is bad," Straten stated. "But we’re so close to [the Texas A&M] campus, that [on Sunday] we had quite a few students who were able to walk over, and who made it. So we will be available for the people who are able to come.”
This all begs the question: What will be lost to the Christian population who can’t make it to church in-person on Wednesday?
"In our tradition, Ash Wednesday is important, but doesn’t hold the same importance as other Christian traditions,," said Father Daryl Hay. "And we are used to being flexible during this time of the pandemic. We’ve learned to go with what we need to do.”
Father Will Straten urged that Christians ought not to feel guilty for not being inside a church building, but instead, should consider their safety and worship God in their homes.
"The sense is the intention of your own heart - intentionality," he explained. "The gospel in the sermon on Wednesday [will be] about how God says to go into your own home and pray. And what God sees in secret, he will repay you in secret.”