Queer Visibility on Ash Wednesday

posted in: Ash Wednesday, Lent 2017 | 0

Queer Visibility: Transforming Dust and Mica to Ashes and Glitter

Rev. Elder Rachelle Brown, Interim Moderator, MCC

Glitter+Ashes is a call to deeply consider long-held traditions and ways that we mark our bodies as present and visible. As LGBTQ+ people of faith, we are to Christianity as the mineral mica is to the earth of God’s creation: precious and reflective of divine presence.

This letter contains background information about the Glitter+Ashes Campaign, Liturgy, and Testimonials from MCC clergy. I invite us to queer the ashes with the same fire and anointing that created the palms and blends oil into the ashes.
In this season, may we shimmer in the presence of our Creator.
Rev. Elder Rachelle Brown
Interim Moderator, Metropolitan Community Churches

Ash Wednesday makes individual Christians highly visible. We will draw on that visibility and embellish it in order to make queer/pro-queer/progressive Christians conspicuously identifiable that day.

Rev. Martha Daniels, Senior Pastor

Holy Covenant MCC, Illinois, USA

Rev. Martha Daniels

Glitter Ashes. It sounds like a contradiction in terms, the dusty remains of what was, the grief of our errors, our misdeeds, mingled with-what? Joy, grace, hope, surprise, glory, even?

But yes. Oh yes.
The repentance and grief of Lent isn’t forever. It’s forty days, that Biblical limit of time for isolation and prayer and fast and withdrawal. It’s not wrong or misguided to take that time to ponder over our lives. A periodic retreat to consider our lives is healthy and wise and life giving-and that shadow-self we all possess is part of our life balance–the balance, not the main.
Take it out into the light, acknowledge all that we don’t like about ourselves-that’s healthy. We do have ashes in our souls-things we wish we hadn’t said, hadn’t done, chunks of charcoal we have smeared on others.
But we have so much glitter in us, too, love and generosity and healing. We shine and glow with the mercy and grace of God’s divine love pouring out of every pore of our bodies, sharing it in abundance as we dance through life. Every one of us has bits and flakes and chunks of shining gold and silver and platinum and diamond and precious jewels of all sorts gleaming in our spirits and souls for others to see and to gladden their hearts.
So we acknowledge our ashes of error, and take the glitter and the ashes and mix it all together, share it with the world-this is hope, this is grace, this is generosity, this is for you, too.
There is light shining beyond the ashes of fear and despair; there is the glitter of hope and resurrection in the ashes of Lent. Come and taste that the Holy One is good.

Glitter+Ash Wednesday Liturgy for 1 March 2017

ONE:        The grace of Jesus be with you.
ALL:        And also with you.
ONE:        Bless the One who forgives all our sins.
ALL:        God’s mercy endures forever.
Oh God of all creation, we look around and see heart-breaking beauty in the eyes of children. We see exquisite evil in people who said they would do no harm. We know first hand the contradictions of good and evil in others and ourselves.  Today, ashes mark us a people who serve with eyes open to the possibilities of great good and the dangers of great harm. Fill us with wisdom. Amen.
Or email [email protected] to request a copy.

Rev. Clinton Crawshaw, Senior Pastor

MCC of the Coachella Valley, California, USA

Rev. Clinton Crawshaw

Christianity is a system of belief that allows for very wide latitude. It is rich with symbolism and nuance, it contains rituals and forms of speech that – like poetry – are able to point to truths that everyday life cannot disclose. Sometimes the ritual actions and words themselves have the power to lift us or to speak to us in ways too profound for easy description.

Christianity is at its least useful when it has little to say to the full range of human experience – when it is a primarily social structure that is speechless and useless in the face of misery, sorrow, regret and perplexity. It is not an “alternative theory of everything” and it doesn’t speak primary with bare facts, but with mystery and truth hidden within that mystery.
In just a short while we approach ash Wednesday, where we impose the ashes of last year’s Palm Crosses and say “remember O woman/man that thou art dust, and to dust thou shalt return.” In ashes we find the direct symbol of human frailness in the enthusiasm of people of Jerusalem on Palm Sunday that so soon turned to cries of “crucify him!” and thence to Golgotha. We also find a deep, ultimate truth in that ashes are the distillation of all things, that the very stuff of creation is the ashes of ancient explosions – the guttered fires of dead stars. To the Babas of the ancient Vedic religions of India the wood ashes they smear themselves with are the days of sunlight upon the leaf of the tree, the water that quenched it, the dung that fed it and the form it accumulated over the years – distilled into the very materiel of life.
We also recognize ourselves in the very ashes – we are dust and ashes, and that is both humbling and reassuring. It reminds us that we are of the same substance as all the rest of creation, and that the miracle of creation forms such dust into our full humanity yet our bodies return to the dust; as the words of the Russian Orthodox Kontakion for the Departed tell us, “even by the grave we make our song – alleluia! Alleluia!”. In despair we find hope, in death we find life, in humility we find exaltation.
The ochre that ancient people covered themselves in and used to anoint their dead and the ashes of wood that prehistoric Britons painted upon themselves – and the mica that when powdered imparts a subtle sparkle to the skin of shamans AND drag queens stands in the same tradition of using mundane substances to speak a truth about the life lived and the belief lived out through it. 
We as MCC folk and as Christians with a wide range of backgrounds must feel no shame in expressing our joy, our humility, our sorrow and sometimes our despair both in community and before our God. It is all gathered into the loving presence of God, and is not erased so much as “shaped.” Even our sorrow is grist for our mill, food for our journey, good earth on which our roots can feed. Nothing is barren, all is fruitful – let us wear our ashes with humility and -where we find it – joy.


LGBTQ+ Activist Campaign for Ash Wednesday

Sponsor: PARITY, Executive Director Rev. Marian Edmonds-Allen (https://parity.nyc/team)
PARITY launched its campaign on 1 February 2017. MCC was one of the first denominations to hear about the idea. #GlitterAshes
How can MCC be involved?
  1. MCC churches are invited to queer their Ash Wednesday liturgy and ritual which either adds glitter to the ashes, or offers glitter to be placed on top of the ashes. A non-glitter option should also be available.
  2. MCC clergy and leaders are invited get on the map if they are included Glitter+Ashes in the Ash Wednesday service: https://bit.ly/GlitterAshes
  3. Create a Lenten Action that creates life, health, solidarity and community for LGBTQ+ people
Glitter Ashes
Ash Wednesday makes individual Christians highly visible. We will draw on that visibility and embellish it in order to make queer/pro-queer/progressive Christians conspicuously identifiable that day.
On Ash Wednesday, participants across the nation/world will
  • receive ashes into which a small quantity of glitter has been added and blessed
  • will receive ashes and then will impose glitter on top of or next to the ash on their forehead.
  • To make progressive Christians visible as progressive Christians
  • Specifically: To make ourselves visible as Christians who are queer or who embrace the lives and witness of LGBTQ people
  • To witness to hope “that does not disappoint,” even in very challenging times, by marking our bodies with blended symbols of mortality and resurrection

Media Releases and News Articles

Parity website devoted to Glitter+Ash Wednesday
“‘Glitter Ash Wednesday’ hopes to sparkle for LGBT Christians, supporters”
“Glitter Ash Wednesday’ sparkles for LGBT Christians and others”


Important Links

Get on the Map! List your church service on the Glitter+Ashes Website

Buy Glitter+Ashes

Experiment: Make your own Glitter+Ashes and share your recipe with MCC