Winter storm at start of Lent shakes up churches’ liturgical plans

Winter weather affected millions on Ash Wednesday, the start of Lent. Image/National Weather Service

By Mary Frances Schjonberg

Episcopal News Service

Numerous Episcopal congregations in the upper Midwest canceled Ash Wednesday services Feb. 22 or moved them online in the face of a major winter storm this week that is bringing heavy snow, blizzard conditions, ice and freezing rain to much of the United States.

From Arizona to upstate New York, the storm forced Episcopalians to shift gears as they prepared to mark the start of Lent, bringing back memories of how the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic three years ago initially upended in-person worship. “It’s so disappointing, but we’re grateful that technology can bring us together,” the Rev. Beth Taylor, rector of St. John’s Episcopal Church in Royal Oak, Mich., wrote in a Facebook post.

In southern Wisconsin, where bands of ice and snow were expected throughout the day, the Diocese of Milwaukee warned Episcopalians to check the status of services at their churches and then check road conditions before venturing out.

Some churches were able to go through with services that had been planned for earlier in the day but canceled later ones as conditions worsened.

“If the roads are OK in the afternoon, I still plan to be outside for Ashes To Go,” the Rev. Dan Buchin, priest-in-charge at Holy Spirit Episcopal Church in Belmont, Mich., wrote in a Facebook post. “You can drive in and then go right back home. I realize that we are dust and to dust we shall return, but let’s not return to dust anytime soon.”

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