Christian organizations celebrate Ash Wednesday


Meredith O'Bara

John Ross, member of Kirk, anoints ashes to Chris Bailey, campus minister of UKirk, Wed. 6, in the Student Center.

The Christian community on Marshall University’s campus celebrated Ash Wednesday by anointing ashes to students Wednesday in the Memorial Student Center.

Ash Wednesday is known for being the day Christians wear a cross on their forehead made of ashes. This year, the usual plain black ashes were changed up, as Chris Bailey, campus minister of UKirk, said students were given the chance to support the Christian LGBTQ community by wearing ashes with glitter in them.

“We are also offering glitter ashes as an effort to be in solidarity with the LGBTQ community students,” Bailey said. “The significance there is it started from a nonprofit organization in New York City advocating for LGBTQ Christians. It means to symbolize that I can be a repenting Christian and also be comfortable in my sexual identity, and those two things are not necessarily at odds with each other.”

John Ross, a junior philosophy major and member of UKirk, said the glitter ashes are significant to faith.

“I think the glitter ashes specifically symbolize a commitment to God’s love for everyone,” Ross said.

Ash Wednesday is more than just the wearing of ashes though, Bailey said.

“Ash Wednesday marks the beginning of Lent, which is the 40-day period which is leading up to Easter, and Ash Wednesday is specifically the time for Christians to be self-reflective and think about their own mortality, their own humanity and also their own sin,” Bailey said. “It is kind of a way of taking stock and also recognizing our shortcomings in the presence of God.”

To celebrate the day in unity, by anointing ashes to students on campus, gives students a chance to celebrate during their packed schedules, Bailey said

“The reality is most students are busy, especially on a regular Wednesday, and aren’t likely going to have the chance to go to an Ash Wednesday service, so we just thought it would be good to offer ashes to go to students as they are coming through the Student Center,” Bailey said.

Anointing ashes to students is a chance for more outreach than just celebrating Ash Wednesday, said Jacob Thomas, an intern with the organization United Methodist Students.

“I think it is a great opportunity to show people what we are about and to work with other campus ministries,” Thomas said. “I think it can unite the community through something as simple as ashes.”

The act of using ashes comes from the Bible, Bailey said, and symbolizes many aspects of faith and the season of Lent.

“Biblically, ashes are kind of a symbol of repentance and mourning, so multiple biblical figures, when they are repenting for their sins or mourning the death of someone, they will often cover themselves in ashes,” Bailey said. “Often, the quotation we use from the Bible, when we administer ashes, is from Genesis and is a reminder that we were made from dust, God formed humanity out of the earth and we will return to that. Then, ultimately, in conjunction to Easter, there is the whole recognition that is not the finality. That there is life after death with Christ.”

 Thomassaid he looks at the ashes as a refreshing of his faith.

“The way I look at it is the ashes are made out of out the Palm Sunday palms and fire can be a renewing thing,” Thomas said. “It destroys something but creates something new.”

Wearing the ashes is an outward sign of faith, but Ross said he sees it as a way to show faith without being invasive.

“I think it is a good display of faith and a noninvasive proclamation,” Ross said.

Meredith O’Bara can be reached at [email protected]