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Ashes to Go plus glitter equals Glitter+Ash Wednesday

Ashes to Go plus glitter equals Glitter+Ash Wednesday
Wokeism derails the meaning of Lent. Ashes to go is heretical

By Mary Ann Mueller
VOL Special Correspondent
March 3, 2022

"Remember, oh man, that thou art dust, and unto dust thou shalt return." These words have been uttered for centuries as Christians enter into the Lenten season of reflection and penance as an ashen cross is traced upon the forehead.

Ironically enough Ash Wednesday has the largest church attendance of the year eclipsing even Christmas and Easter as people flood to churches to get a symbolic start to Lent.

Ash Wednesday is not a holiday such as Christmas and Easter nor a holy day of obligation such as All Saints Day where Roman Catholics are obliged to attend Mass.

But Ash Wednesday has a powerful draw bringing thousands of people to church who would usually not go otherwise for the Imposition of Ashes.

The Ash Wednesday tradition was apparently started by Pope Gregory the Great who was Bishop of Rome from 590 to 604 AD. He is also credited with sending St. Augustine of Canterbury to England to evangelize the Anglo-Saxons in 595 AD. Two years later in 597 AD Augustine was named the first Archbishop of Canterbury.

Most of the liturgical churches such as the Catholics, and the Anglicans, and the Lutherans, and the Methodists, and their offshoots, celebrate Ash Wednesday complete with the ashen mark on their foreheads. And the tradition has spread to non-liturgical Evangelical congregations as well.

The Ash Wednesday Imposition of Ashes has now broken out of the traditional church setting thanks to three Episcopal churches in 2010: St. John's in the Tower Grove neighborhood of St. Louis, Missouri and Calvary Episcopal in Lombard, Illinois. The name of the third church is lost to antiquity.

Then (2010) both Episcopal churches had women priests. At the time Teresa Danieley was the rector at St John's, and Emily Mellott was the rector at Calvary.

The Tower Grove church considers itself a progressive, growing congregation in the Episcopal tradition.

"We are an LGBT open & affirming congregation, a 'Proud Parish Partner' of Integrity USA," the church's website proclaims.

On the other hand, Calvary Episcopal Church takes the words from St. Martin's Anglican Church in Canterbury, England has its own: "We do not have all the answers. We are on a spiritual journey. We look to Scripture, reason, and tradition to help us on our way. Whoever you are, we offer you a space to draw nearer to God and walk with us."

Apparently, the whole Ashes to Go phenomenon started out as a spoof because the Tower Grove rector was upset that Roman Catholics would not take communion from her at weddings.

"St. Louis is a heavily Roman Catholic city," she explained. "When I do a wedding, for example, no matter how many invitations I make during a service, Roman Catholics will not take communion from me."

While in St. Louis the woman priest was a part of an interdenominational Bible study for clergy. Participating clergy included Presbyterians, Disciples of Christ, United Church of Christ, American Baptists, Mennonites, and Episcopalians.

The Protestant clergy in the Bible study were wondering why Roman Catholics would not take communion from them so they questioned whether the Catholics would receive ashes from them on Ash Wednesday.

'We joked that we should offer 'drive thru' ashes or something," the woman priest recalled on the Ashes to Go website.

And thus, the Ashes to Go movement was conceived.

It seems the United Church of Christ pastor Jonathon "Jay" Edwards organized the first Ashes to Go event to see what would happen. The Ashes to Go phenomenon grew from there with the Episcopalians taking the lead.

Point of clarification: Roman Catholics do not receive Communion from a non-Catholic clergyman because the Catholic understanding of the Eucharist is different than the non-Catholic understanding of Holy Communion. Basically Catholics and non-Catholics are not on the same page when it comes to their understanding of the Eucharist.

The Eucharist is a Sacrament. Ashes are a sacramental. A Sacrament imparts grace. It is an outward invisible sign of an inward and spiritual grace. A sacramental is an object or action which points to the Sacraments or increases reverence and piety in the believer. Ashes are a sacramental, as is holy water, blessed candles, prayer beads, and the Sign of the Cross.

After Pastor Edwards left the St. Louis region for a new church assignment the Episcopalians took the bit and ran with it and continued to develop the Ash Wednesday Ashes to Go events which have since become an early Lenten annual event.

Now Ashes to Go has been widely spread through the Episcopal Church and beyond. Other denominations are also offering their version of Ashes to Go which are called by various names: Drive-through Ashes, Smudge & Run, Ashes on the Fly, and Lent-in-a-Bag.

The problem with Ashes to Go is that it separates the Imposition of Ashes from Scripture. In a traditional church service the Imposition of Ashes is rooted in the Liturgy of the Word. There is also time for prayer and reflection and a short exhortation and perhaps even an Ash Wednesday Litany of Penance before being sent out into the world with the telltale smudge on the forehead.

The usual Scripture readings for the first day of Lent are: Old Testament reading: Joel 2:12-18; The Psalm of the Day: Psalm 51; the Epistle reading: II Corinthians 5:20-6:2; and the Gospel reading: Matthew 6:1-6, 16-18.

If Ashes to Go is, as Dietrich Bonhoeffer would say "Cheap Grace," then Glitter+Ashes is heretical.

Glitter+Ashes is the latest take on Ashes to Go. Since 2017 some churches have been adding glitter to Ash Wednesday ashes as a way to acknowledge and support the LGBTQ+ community.

Liz Edman, another Episcopal female priest, and United Church of Christ minister Marian Edmonds-Allen are the creative forces behind Glitter Ashes and Glitter+Ash Wednesday.

The LGBTQ+ version of Ash Wednesday is now promoted by Parity, a Presbyterian-based New York City organization designed to "build bridges across the LGBTQ+ and faith divide" and to help "congregations and faith organizations, clergy, seminarians, denominations and seminaries become more LGBTQ+ sensitive and celebratory."

"Glitter+Ash is an inherently queer sign of Christian belief, blending symbols of mortality and hope, of penance and celebration," explains the Episcopal lesbian priest on her Queer Virtue website. "Queer Christianity will be visible, pliable and on your face."

Queer Christianity is not only ON your face it is IN your face. Edman has written a book called Queer Virtue: What LGBTQ People Know About Life and Love and How It Can Revitalize Christianity.

Queer Virtue partners with the New York City Anti-violence Project and Trinity-Wall Street to address the spiritual wounds. Edman, an out and proud lesbian, says that "LGBTQ people are a gift to the Church and have the potential to revitalize Christianity."

Of course, Glitter+Ash comes in Lenten purple but is also available in the whole array of the LGBT rainbow colors and can be used for the Ash Wednesday liturgy within the traditional church setting or on the street at Ashes to Go locations.

Parity claims that churches across a dozen denominations now use Glitter+Ash in their Ash Wednesday liturgies.

"On Ash Wednesday thousands of churches, clergy and lay people will offer Glitter+Ashes," the Parity website explains, posting testimonials from Methodists, Lutherans, United Church of Christ, Episcopalians and others.

Glitter+Ash Wednesday liturgies have also been developed where the familiar words of the Imposition of Ashes have been changed to read: "We came from dust, we return to dust and in between we glitter, shimmer and dance in holy light."

"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," said Edmonds-Allen Glitter+Ash Wednesday's organizer. "It is a way to 'come out' as an affirming Christian.

Ash Wednesday is supposed to be an opportunity to "repent and believe in the Gospel."

The Glitter+Ash variant of Ashes to Go is a mockery to the true meaning of Ash Wednesday -- which is metanoia -- a turning away from sin and embracing the Cross.

Glitter+Ash instead focuses on and celebrates sin.

Mary Ann Mueller is a journalist living in Texas. She is a regular contributor to VirtueOnline.

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