NEW YORK — On Ash Wednesday, February 26, thousands of churches, clergy, and laypeople will offer Glitter Ashes.
Ash Wednesday marks the beginning of Lent, a 40-day season of self-reflection and preparation for Easter. The imposition of ashes on the forehead, a traditional practice that “marks” believers with the sign of the cross, takes place in Christian churches and communities worldwide, as well as in parks, commuter rail stations, and other public spaces. In addition to offering the traditional ashes, participants in Glitter Ash Wednesday offer ashes mixed with biodegradable purple glitter, combining a symbol of repentance with a message of solidarity.
“Glitter Ash Wednesday shows that despite the message of hate LGBT people hear from some religious people, there are many more who love LGBT people, welcome them to their churches, and affirm their spiritual gifts,” says Rev. Marian Edmonds-Allen, Executive Director of Parity, the organizer of Glitter Ash Wednesday. “It is a way to ‘come out’ as an affirming Christian.”
This four-year-old tradition has become an anticipated event, and this year especially in rural areas not typically known for LGBT advocacy.
“The issue of visibility is particularly pertinent in the Bible belt south where religion and identity are too often pitted against one another. We are proud to be a part of this wider community declaring God’s inclusion and embrace of all people.” Rev. Ashley Dellagiacoma from +KINDRED, an Evangelical Lutheran Church in Houston, Texas.
Says one Methodist Deacon: “While my church is in conflict about the LGBTQ issue, I’d like to serve glittered ashes to those in support. It would mean a lot to stand in allegiance.”
In addition to church services, Glitter Ashes will be offered in nursing homes, ashes-to-go sites, subway stations, street corners, the Santa Monica Pier – and more. Many colleges and universities will hold Glitter Ash Wednesday services and actions:
“We have used Glitter+Ash for several years on campus and at our Lutheran church in Kansas.”
“At Carnegie Mellon University, people were surprised and happy that we will have a religious event that not only tolerates but outright celebrates being queer and being loving of LGBT people,” says one transgender youth.
Some churches are combining Ash Wednesday and Mardi Gras events: “On Fat Tuesday, we are hosting a Drag Gospel Festival. We will officially “bury the Hallelujah ” with the final number, Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah.” Then the director of the Festival will assist me during our Ashes to Go in their fabulous drag.” Rev. Grace Murray, People’s United Church of Christ, Fargo, ND
“I move around the country serving different churches and wherever I end up serving during Lent I have used the Glitter Ashes to lift up the fight for equality for LGBTQ people. Last year when I arrived at the current church I am serving, my first service with them was on Ash Wednesday and I already had some Glitter Ash to use and when I spoke about why we use these types of Ashes people were deeply moved. I also think it is a way to unify our divided country.” Rev. Damien J. Lake
“Glitter+Ash continues to generate interest, conversation, and controversy. This is right. Lots of folks think glitter is a lightweight gesture toward ‘inclusion.’ But what we have tried to do is much deeper, richer, and more important than this. Glitter+Ash is a way to explore Ash Wednesday through a queer lens. We take the abjection, scandal, and mortality of queer experience, mix it with ash, and smear it on our foreheads for the world to see.” Rev. Elizabeth M. Edman, co-creator of Glitter+Ash and author of Queer Virtue.
“Four New York City congregations – two United Methodist, two churches of the United Church of Christ – will come together for a second year to observe Ash Wednesday with glitter + ashes and a celebration of the Eucharist. Ashes remind us that we are all marked with the sign of the cross as we enter Lent, preparing to face death as Jesus faced it – risking all, and finally letting go. Yet we walk in the shadows with our beautiful, fabulous bodies shining with the glittering glory of God, in whose divine image we are all made. All of us! Glitter + ash reminds us to hold together body and spirit, grief and joy, dying and rising. All of us go down to the dust, as the ancient funeral liturgy reminds us, but even at the grave we make our song: Alleluia! Alleluia! Alleluia!” Rev. Dr. J. Terry Todd, Associate Pastor, Rivers of Living Water, United Church of Christ.
People have a variety of reasons to share Glitter + Ash: from the traditional observance of personal penance to active, militant resistance. From those noting the connection between cosmic dust to our lives, to those who wish to show repentance for the sins of many churches against LGBT people – or to show that their church is LGBT affirming. The one thing that connects every person taking part is love. Love for those that some say God hates. Glitter + Ash participants want to show that not only do they love LGBT people, but God surely does, too.
Said one pastor in Georgia: “I hope at least one person discovers they are loved and held in the care of God. Anything else is a bonus.”
Glitter + Ash will be imposed at thousands of locations. Contact [email protected] for a location near you.
Parity has made available a range of resources, including church and street liturgies, event ideas, theological talking points and a how-to on making glitter ashes for faith communities interested in participating in #GlitterAshWednesday. These resources are available without charge at Parity.nyc: https://parity.nyc/glitter-ash-wednesday2020
Parity is a faith-based organization that works to empower LGBTQ and allied people of faith as they explore the intersections of their spiritual, gender and sexual identities. Parity offers a range of education and advocacy programs for adults and youth, and supports a community of new and prospective LGBTQ pastors as they live into their call to ministry. parity.nyc
Glitter+Ash logo and image courtesy of Queer Virtue