FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- Thousands of local Christians celebrated Ash Wednesday but the pandemic forced church leaders to change the way ashes were distributed.
Most local churches celebrated the religious holiday with outdoor services while also tweaking the ritual but not the spiritual message.
"People have been through a lot and we're not asking them to do more. In a sense we're asking them to focus on what they're already going through and lift it up in prayer," said Catholic Diocese of Fresno Bishop Joseph Brennan.
Ash Wednesday marks the beginning of the six weeks leading up to Easter Sunday.
Rather than have priests and deacons rub ashes directly to a person's forehead the Roman Catholic Diocese of Fresno instead distributed them by sprinkling ashes on top of the head of believers in an effort to reduce the spread of COVID.
"Life is all about change and moving forward and adjusting. To be a part of it is a gift," said parishioner Diane Arbios.
At Holy Spirit Catholic Church in north Fresno, parishioners were required to practice social distancing and wear a mask to services.
Other churches within the diocese offered live streams of Ash Wednesday services for those who couldn't attend.
"I think one thing that it has been interesting about the whole pandemic and Ash Wednesday being the first of its kind is we can adapt and we can find ways to do things we believe," said parishioner Bill Rittore.
Lenten season continues through Easter, which is April 4 this year.
Local Christians celebrate a unique, socially-distanced Ash Wednesday
'Life is all about change and moving forward and adjusting. To be a part of it is a gift,' said one parishioner.