Irenic Thoughts

Irenic. The word means peaceful. This web log (or blog) exists to create an ongoing, and hopefully peaceful, series of comments on the life of King of Peace Episcopal Church. This is not a closed community. You are highly encouraged to comment on any post or to send your own posts.


Forcing priests to wear robes

The Telegraph reports on one British theologian, the Rev. Andrew Atherstone, who says that traditional vestments in worship are a hindrance rather than a help,
Garments such as the cassock and surplice are a form of "power dressing" which reinforce class divisions and prevent the wearer getting the Lord's message across.
The article is based on the publication of a report titled "Clergy Robes and Mission Priorities" which seeks to challenge canon laws (church rules) which date back in England to 1604. Atherstone goes on to say,
old King of Peace photo, yes that's GriffinThe existing law, which makes robes obligatory for all, belongs to a bygone world. In the 21st century Anglican ministers must at last be given the freedom to decide their own clothing, in consultation with their congregations, based on their local setting.
He also says that "robes can be a form of power dressing—they can reinforce the divisions of a stratified society, where deference to rank and authority is key."

Church of the SpiritWe do have that flexibility in The Episcopal Church. Church of the Spirit (pictured at left), a church I helped plant while in seminary, does not use vestments in worship for their main Sunday service for the very sort of reasons Atherstone points out. I have a friend from seminary, Jimmy Bartz, whose new church start, St. Thad's is an Episcopal Church with a a laid back feel that meets at The Jazz Bakery in Culver City, California. Their website notes,
Sunday mornings at Thad’s are very informal. We wear clothes that we are comfortable in, we play music that we like, we do our best to create a place that people feel welcome and at home.
Worship at King of PeaceBy design, King of Peace is informal, but does have ways of worshipping that seem very formal compared to my Pentecostal upbringing. Yes, the clothes we wear in leading worship are different from our day-to-day wear. That helps show outwardly, what we know inwardly, that we are entering holy space for a holy task. The various vestments are for the various roles in the service. When I am not the celebrant, I don't wear the celebrants vestments or sit in the presider's chair. I see this as more about worshipping decently and in good order than visble signs of an archaic hierarchy.

St. Thad'sI know that St. Thad's is entering holy space for a holy time in their own way and I am not knocking their practice, which fits their setting and the group they are hoping to gather as they grow. This means that both King of Peace and St. Thad's are now living into the sort of future Atherstone pictures in the report. We already have the flexibility to tailor the clothes to fit the Church, rather than being straightjacketed by canon law. It does make sense to leave room for church's to select ways of worshipping that feel worshipful to the gathered community. That's my take. What do you think?

The Rev. Frank Logue, Pastor

PS: Though I am still away at a meeting in New Orleans, we will have worship tonight at King of Peace. The Rev. John Pearce, who is serving St. Mark's in Woodbine, will be the celebrant and preacher and I bet he'll wear robes. The service is at 6:15 p.m. No Bible study follows this week, we will pick up with Mark 13 next Wednesday at 7 p.m.



  • At 10/31/2008 9:33 PM, Anonymous me said…

    I think the dress is cool, since the guy in it isn't stiffnecked like his collar. And ya, I don't care what its "traditional" name is, its a dress.


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