The Ritual of The
Rainbow Sash Movement
The Rainbow Sash
action, or ritual, is simple, strong and clear. In this lies its strength.
It also requires careful preparation and mindfulness.
The following guidelines detail the practices we have followed over
the past three years. They have worked extraordinarily well. We recommend that they be followed as closely as possible as
other communities consider taking up the Rainbow Sash.
-- Some weeks before an action is planned, a formal letter is sent to the
Bishop or priest who will be presiding at the liturgy where we will wear
the Rainbow Sash.
Included are copies of
our "Letter to the Church" and
"Letter to Pope John Paul 11" (we
also recommend including the articles "Rainbow
Warrior" and "Jesus' Radical Ministry"
as background for our rationale and the meaning of the sash.)
A carefully worded
COVER LETTER briefly explains who we are, the
date and time of the Mass we plan to attend, and, most importantly, a
strong and courteous assurance that we will be reverent, prayerful,
dignified and utterly non-violent in word, action and attitude, and that
we will be in no way disruptive. We
are Catholics coming to Mass.
-- We use brochures, e-mails, and mail networks etc to promote the action,
being careful how we promote it and to whom, always stressing our strong,
peaceful and respectful attitude:
"The church is our
sacred space, too, and we claim it with dignity, pride and in peace".
to the actual date we notify the media, if this seems appropriate, through
contact with individual journalists and, a few days before the action,
through a press release.
All enquiries are
directed to the group's designated spokesperson who should be articulate,
theologically literate, genuinely committed to the gospel and to a
transformed church, and able to speak on the issues calmly, clearly,
without bitterness or anger, but with conviction.
Overly negative language should be avoided.
We intend to challenge and call the church to justice and
liberation, not simply to attack it.
Should anyone attack us, in word or action, we respond with calm
strength and dignity.
-- On the actual day, we gather people together one hour before the
liturgy for a briefing that is MANDATORY for anyone planning to wear the
We choose a nearby venue
-- even a park etc. We
carefully explain the details of the action, the rationale and spirit
behind it, and stress that it is communal and peaceful.
We ask everyone to commit themselves to our common vision and
distribute the rainbow sashes (which are to be returned after Mass),
collect donations, addresses etc and designate people to distribute our
"Letter to the Church" as the
congregation leaves church grounds after Mass. (We are addressing
the whole People of God - not just the hierarchy).
We finish with a moment
of prayer or centering meditation together, to recall to our hearts and
minds the inner hope, motivation and commitment that have brought us
together on this day.
4. -- We proceed to the
church/Cathedral, in groups of four or five etc, with our rainbow sashes
in our pockets or handbags. In
this way we enter the Cathedral as ordinary members of the church.
(It also means we cannot be simply stopped as we enter the church).
Inside, we disperse
ourselves throughout the congregation, not in a single block, but in small
groups -- so we have support, but appear as we truly are: gay, lesbian,
bisexual, transgender members of God's People found throughout the church.
It is helpful if the
group's leaders take seats towards the front of the church.
5. -- As the
Opening Hymn is sung, we stand in the usual way, and vest in our Rainbow
Sashes. These are worn over
one's left shoulder, across the back and the chest, and pinned by one's
right hip. (It’s good to
help each other here; we want to look neat!)
6. -- We
participate reverently in the Eucharist in the usual way.
It is important that we seek to make this a real time of prayer for
ourselves and our church.
-- As the priest or Bishop comes down from the altar to distribute
Communion, all the Rainbow Sash wearers simply stand up in our places in
8. -- As our turn
comes to go up to receive Communion, we join the line in the usual way.
We approach the priest or Bishop (and, where it is practical, we
suggest Rainbow Sash wearers should approach the Bishop or priest rather
than lay ministers. Certainly,
at least some of the sash wearers should approach the main presider - the
priest. The symbolism here is important)
As we reach the
priest, we stand and open our hands to receive Communion.
Here, it is important not to be brushed aside.
Stand for a brief moment, waiting to receive the Eucharist.
We are generally refused
Holy Communion. Sometimes the
priest or bishop offers us a blessing instead.
Some of us accept this, if it feels right, some of us decline it --
VERY politely. We do NOT
engage in conversation or discussion or argument with the person
distributing Communion. At
most, we say "Peace Be With You".
The Movement strongly insists on this simplicity and courtesy.
It is only by maintaining this peaceful attitude in word and action
that we will be able to stand with dignity in this painful and complex
-- We return to our places and remain standing silently, in witness and
challenge, throughout Communion and until the Prayer After Communion, when
the congregation also stands
(Should there be any
statement made about us by the priest or bishop, we do NOT respond at this
time except by maintaining our dignity through silent witness)
We officially encourage all of our members who identify as “Catholic”
to both wear the Sash and seek Holy Communion. This includes both people
who active in their practice and in their parishes, and also those who are
baptised Catholics but who may have “lapsed” from Church practice
because of issues such as the teaching on homosexuality. Coming back into
the church and wearing the Sash can be a powerful and prayerful way of
reclaiming our spiritual heritage – and bringing our gifts into the
We welcome Christians of
other denominations, and all people of good faith, to join us at Mass and
to wear the Sash. However, because of the Church’s ruling that only
Catholics may receive Communion, we cannot officially invite them to join
us in seeking the Eucharist. “Inter-communion”, as it is called, is
itself a contentious issue in our Church, and we do not want to confuse
issues and arguments, nor allow our critics to claim that those of us who
seek Communion are not “real Catholics”.
However, we do welcome
all such people to wear the Sash and attend Mass with us, to take part in
the prayers etc, to simply stand in silence during Communion while those
who are Catholics go forward, to witness our refusal, and to remain
standing in solidarity with us when we return to our seats. This action
also shows that the Catholic Church’s treatment of GLBT people is
challenged by Christians from other churches and by many people of good
faith. It is a powerful sign of solidarity.
-- It is always possible that before, during or after Mass an individual
or another group of protesting people (possibly GLBT people) may speak out
or act in aggressive, angry or blatantly confrontational ways that go
against the peaceful spirit of the Rainbow Sash Ritual. Careful and
prayerful preparation should minimize this risk, but we must still be
ready for this possibility. Should our movement become publicly associated
with abusive or violent words or actions, much of the good work we are
doing in the Church would be jeopardised. We therefore recommend the
following: If any aggressive, disruptive or violent word or action is
expressed publicly by an individual or group while we are wearing the sash
at Mass, we will simply take our sashes off (another reason for the
leaders to sit forward in the church – their lead will be crucial here).
If this happens while we are standing throughout Communion, we will also
sit down. We will maintain silence.
After it is clear that
the disruption has been resolved or dealt with, we will put our sashes
back on and, if it seems right, stand once again. In this way we clearly
disassociate our movement from any disruptive action, but we also make it
clear we will not be deflected from our purpose. In particularly charged
situations it may be appropriate to inform the bishop beforehand that this
will be our procedure in the event of any disruption.
-- After Mass our spokesperson makes a prepared statement to any media
outside the church, and takes questions.
distribute our “Letter to the Church” at
the gates of the church's property. If
anyone from the media approaches sash wearers they are welcome to speak
personally about their feelings or experience. Any other questions are to be referred to the spokesperson.
This is vital in keeping a consistent line throughout the movement,
and makes consistent communication with the hierarchy possible.
The rainbow sashes are collected after Mass is over.
13. -- As soon as
possible, we gather together at a nearby venue -- preferably at a cafe,
restaurant, hall, etc., to talk, share, celebrates, de-brief etc.
This is a very important part of the action.
For many people, the
experience of wearing the Rainbow Sash is their first public stance on
this issue. For some it is even a coming out. For many the refusal of Communion is shocking and
distressing, and for all these reasons it is important to affirm and
celebrate together the strength, the courage, and gift we are giving to
the church and to one another. We
must turn the church's attempt to disempower us, into affirmation and
14. -- Within the
next week, the groups leaders meet to review, discuss, plan etc -- and to
keep members informed of developments with the hierarchy, the media etc.
Here, it is important to be prepared for quite extensive and
-- As the Rainbow Sash Movement grows and spreads, is important that we
send letters or e-mails about our actions and involvement to other Rainbow
Sash groups, and certainly to the central
and spokespersons, so that our networking is strengthened, and our
movement has a consistent and coherent approach.
Any individuals or groups, who are considering organising a Rainbow Sash action, are warmly invited to contact our national or international committees and spokespersons for encouragement, information, resources and support.
Let us make the journey to justice together.