Ash Wednesday starts Lent by focusing the Christian’s heart

COACHELLA VALLEY — Ash Wednesday marks the beginning of Lent and this year falls on Feb. 17 amidst an ongoing pandemic. In many churches and parishes, the day, sometimes called the Day of Ashes, will look and feel different. The meaning remains the same.

Ash Wednesday starts Lent by focusing the Christian’s heart on repentance and prayer, usually through personal and communal confession.

Last year’s Ash Wednesday services and Masses on Feb. 26 were celebrated just weeks before the coronavirus pandemic hit the United States, so church services and social media posts of people’s ashes followed the usual tradition. It wasn’t until the third week of Lent that many churches halted services.

During this year’s celebration of Ash Wednesday Feb. 17, many dioceses will be following the Vatican’s recommendation of a modified method for distributing ashes: sprinkling them on the top of people’s heads rather than using them to make a cross on people’s foreheads.

At St. Margaret’s Episcopal Church in Palm Desert, there will be a drive-in service at noon in the parking lot with distribution o ashes, music, and communion. You may participate in this service from the safety of your car.

From 5 p.m. to 6 p.m. also at St. Margaret’s, there will be a drive-through opportunity at the front of the church too receive ashes and a Lenten blessing from the clergy.

At Hope Lutheran Church in Palm Desert on Ash Wednesday the pastors will provide drive-thru imposition of ashes at 12 p.m. and 6 p.m. A cotton swab will be used to put the sign of the cross, in ashes, on your forehead. In addition, you will receive your Lenten Coin for 2021. You may also come to the church office to pick up your coin on or after Feb. 17.

At Hope Palm Springs, there will be an online zoom forum Ash Wednesday, which will also be the format for its Lenten series, “Created in Community.” The church leadership is mailing individual ash packets to those who have registered to attend.

Register by sending an email to Pastor Tim ( and he will mail you your ashes to be used at the Ash Wednesday worship forum and a copy of “Steadfast Love.” Please include your address confirmation.

In addition, Hope Palm Springs is participating in a YouTube video series with other churches in the Pacifica Synod. Music and message will be provided by different congregations and pastors of those congregations. People not able to attend Wednesday evening forums, can go to the YouTube series at their convenience.