Tragic and true

PeaceBang writes about “suicide smocks” and I can’t help but share her opinion on how it isn’t funny but is tragically absurd.

To tell you the truth, when I first saw the photo, my first thought was “what sect do they belong to?”

I thought it was some kind of preaching ware.

Geneva bands in London

A small indulgence, please.

Was watching the fourth episode of the stellar In Search of Shakespeare, and saw a familiar place.

Host Michael Wood was investigating what the Bard would have done with an amount crimson cloth at the coronation of James I. He went to Ede and Ravenscroft, the kind of place the royals go to get theirs even now.

Ah! I recognize that shop, so I thought, as I was watching. It is where I got two sets of barrister’s bands (five pounds, each, I think) which I’ve domesticated for ecclesiastic purposes. Indeed, I think the bands I’m wearing in the nameplate are Ede and Ravenscroft. And in case you’re wondering, they were very polite and helpful despite my small purchase and tourist togs. They even take Visa.

(The lay minister of the Brixton Unitarian [Christian] Church — I’ve seen both names in print– where Hubby and I attended worship was wearing a very fine bachelor’s gown from Ede and Ravenscroft, and he gave me the tip.)

Clericals watch, or "why bother?"

Did anyone else stay up to see Morrissey on David Letterman? The show “ran late” and so all the fans got was a single from his none-too-new CD. But Hubby and I saw him recently in concert, and so of course we were going to catch a reprise. But a word about his costume.

His wearing street clericals was a tad provocative, but topical since one of the songs off the new disk is “I Have Forgiven Jesus”. (It wasn’t what he sang, but rather “The First in the Gang to Die”.)

As some one who has been known to wear clericals, let me tell the garb is highly symbolic. You become the object of projection from both friends and strangers. Some will object; others wil be uneasy. Very, very few will defer or treat you nicely because of your public ministerial state. All of which is odd, given both that street clericals share as much in common with “lay” clothing as human DNA shares with the chimp.

But a public witness is a part of the vocation of a Christian, and clergy need to be the first ones “out there” to encourage the faithful and caution the distructive. The tendency in American religious practice — especially on the liberal edges — is to identify faith with public morality. The side effect is confusing one’s religion with accepted community standards, and the inheriting the biases and sins they foster. Conservatives do this too, but liberals (in my experience) become more marginal and self-congratulatory faster than convervatives, largly because the latter still have such a consiousness of sin. (Liberals, on the other hand, have a keen consciousness of huberis: a deeply needed contribution in its own right, but off the subject here.)

But Christian faith isn’t about being nice. It is about being in communion with God with and throug Christ Jesus. Playground morality doesn’t hold a candle next to human community and solidarity with a compassionate God.

Back to Moz. His garb is an ironic recollection of the western Christian establishment that’s all but dead. Ironically, that’s why it isn’t too shocking, and will probably not register much of a protest. We know what he stands for through his music and politics. We know what he believes, but for us poor blighted non-rockers it makes as much sense to identify ourselves publically in word and deed with what we believe. Rather than hiding in a cosy “one of the team” laicism, I feel clergy should step up and be the first to identify themselves as Christian in word, deed, manner, and dress.

Field guide for patriarchs

Excuse, please, a light moment. I recommended an Orthodox Church of America church today to somebody I know well, and that led to a few minutes looking at Eastern Orthodox websites.

Found one about the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople’s recent visit to North America. What I didn’t expect was a little page giving the proper names for the distinctive parts of his vesture. Reminds me a bit of one of those field guides for birds.

See for yourself.

For the Patriarchal Visit 2004 on the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America website

When to wear clericals

Back from Peter Boullata’s ordination, which went well, with a sermon from UUA President Bill Sinkford, a charge from Weston First Parish’s senior minister, Tom Wintle; the imposition of hands, led by WFP’s associate minister, Sue Spencer; and a wonderful choir. May Peter’s years of pastoral ministry be long and prosperous.

A small ecclesiastic matter.
When I returned home, I discovered an email where
a colleague asked others “wither the clerical collar?” OK, that’s my take on it.
The discussion is confidential, but here’s my reply.

As many of you know, I am a collar-wearer, and this is where I wear it:

1. Any place I exercise pastoral ministry, including worship and meetings of the communion of the churches, like UUMA

[Unitarian
Universalist Ministers Association, or here, the local chapter
] and GA.

[General Assembly of the Unitarian Universalist Association] (Sometimes I’ll skip it for a lunch meeting, though.)

— example, I wear it when I preach at someone else’s church, but not if I go on a Sunday off as a congregant.

2. When I travel, as a public ministry to worried travellers. (That might be more of a Washington post-9/11 thing.)

But when I wear it, I’m “on.” So when I wear it, I informally plan how to get out of it.