Whilst writing about the recent formation of yet another select group of Anglican’s who want to prop up their own viewpoint, theologian Maggi Dawn wrote this week:
“believe me, there is nothing, nothing, nothing remotely feminine about clerical dress. It may have a skirt attached, but of all the things I have ever worn it is the least feminine thing I have ever encountered.”
When I was on placement at All Saints Basingstoke earlier this year, I preached in robes for the first time (cassock and surplice) and also robed in alb for Easter morning (pictured). Though it felt a little odd, it was expected, and something which helped the members of that church relate to me as a minister. It is actually part of the ‘feel’ of worship that some people really need.
Somehow I also felt the authority of the cassock and surplice went with the authority that apparently comes over when I speak (sometimes)… part of the ‘other’ me that some close friends find difficult to cope with. If you like, it felt like a visible symbol of the part of me that is becoming a ‘minister’.
Yet, as my vicar recently reminded me when the subject came up, robes were originally a sign of humility, designed to imitate the smocks of the ordinary folk so that the priest blended in with them. Now they are seen as a sign of authority, and by some as a symbol of status – with the negativity that that can cause.
Here in St. Peter’s we have congregations that sit on both or neither side of the ‘robing’ fence. Since I am reasonably comfortable in robes (unlike some of my collegues) I am most likely to make use of them in the times and places appropriate in this parish.
But are there ideas I’ve not already captured about this issue… and, remember I will only be a Lay Minister, not a deacon or priest!?