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Marshall University's Student Newspaper

The Parthenon

Marshall University's Student Newspaper

The Parthenon

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UKIRK Celebrates Ash Wednesday

As churches around the world celebrated Ash Wednesday, Marshall’s UKIRK campus ministry kicked off the season by putting a more positive spin on the tradition.

“Many Christians, at least historically, have given up something for Lent,” Marshall’s campus Presbyterian pastor, Rev. Chris Bailey, said. “We’ve tried to put a more positive spin on it, so, rather than giving something up, it’s become more common to take on an additional spiritual practice.”

UKIRK alum Em Rau said Lent is the period of time leading up to the death of Jesus, and Ash Wednesday marks the beginning of the Lenten season. 

“Ash Wednesday is the first day of Lent,” Rau said. “Lent is the season as we begin to lead up to Jesus’ death and his resurrection on Easter.”

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Traditionally, Catholic and Protestant church goers use Ash Wednesday to step into the reflective period of Lent. Bailey said UKIRK and other Presbyterian ministries use the day to reflect on oneself.

“Presbyterians specifically- and at least UKIRK- we use it as a time to be self-reflective, especially just acknowledging how we are complicit in the suffering of others,” Bailey said. 

Rau said the service associated with Ash Wednesday is a way for participants to reflect and shift focus going into Lent. 

“We have a service where we lay the ashes across our forehead as a reminder of how we are ash, and, to ash, we will return,” Rau said. “It’s a chance to reflect and turn your focus to something more specific or rigid.”

According to Rau, some Presbyterian churches will hold a full service on Ash Wednesday, but UKIRK held an abbreviated service. 

“Some Presbyterian churches will have a full service with hymns and a message, like a sermon,” Rau said. “But we gave a short prayer, and we had a little time to reflect, and then we did the ashes part. So it was just an abbreviated service, basically.”

Rau said the typical ash used in the service is, at least in theory, from palm leaves used in the previous year’s Palm Sunday service. 

“There’s just the regular ash which is usually, at least in theory- I don’t know if they technically are all the time, but the ashes are from the palms from the previous Palm Sunday,” Rau said. “Palm Sunday is the Sunday before Easter where we’re welcoming Jesus into what eventually will be his death.”

A unique part of UKIRK’s Ash Wednesday celebration is the inclusion of glitter ash, a way to signify one’s queer identity or allyship in conjunction with their Christian faith. 

“You can have just regular ashes, but we also have glitter ashes that have glitter in it,” Rau said. “And it’s sort of a small signifier for how you are either LGBTQ or an ally to LGBTQ+ people, but also a Christian.”

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