September 2, 2014

Now, I Wear a Robe

LutheranClergyJason Micheli has expressed some interesting thoughts about an experience he had as a robed pastor in his post, Clergy Robes and Anonymous Notes in Church. I encourage you to go and read his post before proceeding.

More about that in a moment.

I grew up in United Methodist Churches where clergy wore robes. So did the choirs, the choral director, and the acolytes. But the most impressive were the pastors. It was more than the robe, it was their entire bearing, but the robe was certainly a major part of the effect. I recall the senior minister in particular, entering with profound seriousness, large black Bible in hand, long black robes flowing as he walked. A tall, white-haired theophany he was, who knelt ceremoniously with perfect posture in front of his tall velvet-seated chair, then rose to be seated to the side of the preaching pulpit. His black robe and vestments made him seem larger than life or perhaps more than human. He carried a definite aura of holy sobriety.

Of course, that was a child’s view, and when I finally became a pastor in a much lower-church Baptist parish in New England, there was no robe. In fact, there was little in the way of ceremony, no holy aura, and I approved. The congregation was composed of down-to-earth, plain spoken Vermonters, and though I wore a jacket and tie most Sundays, I never imagined that they would ask me to mount the pulpit robed.

The first time I wore a robe was some twenty years later, when a couple with a Lutheran background asked me to don a white alb while conducting their wedding. After that anomaly, it was back to our non-denominational clergy uniform, which at that time was still coat and tie or shirt and tie in the summer. However, it was obvious that our congregations were becoming more casual in their dress, and it wouldn’t be long before those leading the services donned jeans and declined anything that looked dressy — even as our culture was turning “casual Fridays” into an everyday practice.

Now I wear a white alb whenever I preside in the Lutheran church, and will soon add the vestments indicating my ordained status. I like it. I think it adds a great deal to the aesthetics of the service. Along with the sanctuary architecture and appointments, the designated clergy apparel communicates that we have entered into a space where we honor the sacramental nature of reality. We have entered sacred space, space set aside for God’s people to meet, praise, pray, and partake from the Word and Table together. Wearing the robe reminds me that I have a certain role in these sacramental actions — not one that is above the congregation, but actually beside and below them, indicating that I have been granted a certain vocation of service to God’s family.

robed preacherThis brings me back to Jason Micheli’s article.

Micheli’s experience (read his post for details) led him to reflect on the fact that, in his denomination, the robe has come to indicate “the priesthood of pastors and the ownership of members.” That is, it reinforces the clergy/laity distinction that puts ministers above the parishioners while at the same time giving congregants the idea that clergy are the “labor” who serve under the direction of the real “owners” of the church, i.e. them.

The author blames his denomination for this, noting how they communicate high leadership expectations for pastors while giving virtually all leadership authority to the congregation members. Furthermore the Methodists’ historical emphasis on itinerancy keeps ministers on the move, preventing them from developing any organic, relational authority in local settings.

Thus we come back to a theme we’ve seen over and over again with regard to Protestantism — whether of the low-church, revivalistic variety or of the higher church, traditional variety.

We have an authority problem.

We don’t understand authority and have little idea of how to talk about it or work it out in practice.

The matter of the clergy robe gives us another chance to discuss this.

It is not, after all, simply about what we prefer our ministers wear.

 

Comments

  1. Richard Hershberger says:

    In to poking hornets’ nests, are we? In these latter days, people routinely approach the sacred in clothing they would never dream of wearing to something important, like a job interview.

    I am old school. I routine wear a suit to church (albeit slacking off in the Summer) and an alb when acting as a lay assistant. That being said, there is a fine line between clerical vestments to mark the sacred function, and playing dress up. Where the line lies is a cultural matter. My pastor wears a ruff http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ruff_(clothing) when presiding over the German service, but never the English. It would be more than faintly ridiculous there. Then there is the wonderful (though sadly inactive) Bad Vestments blog at http://badvestments.blogspot.com/.

    My takeaway is that there is a middle ground between putting on a clown suit and trying a bit too hard to be hip. Where this middle ground lies depends on the cultural context. For American Lutheran clergy, an alb and chasuble is in the sweet zone.

    • I had been told the ruff was a Scandinavian thing. I hadn’t seen or heard of it being used in a German service. Interesting.

      • Richard Hershberger says:

        My understanding, which could well be wrong, is that it is also a North German thing. My pastor is originally from Lubeck, which is just a stone’s throw from Denmark.

        • I’ve seen it worn on Danish TV shows, too, but never in Swedish movies with Lutheran clergy – ???

    • Btw, thanks so much for the link to that blog – *un*believable!!!!

    • I shouldn’t post spoilers, but… That Tweety Bird stole!!! Yikes – LOLZ, too.

  2. Mike, another well-written post. And Jason’s article was very interesting. His reason for not wearing a robe illustrates the danger of making things like vestments a do-or-die issue. The symbolism of wearing vestments will be interpreted according to the background of the church involved. In his case, he was concerned that the robe communicated that he as pastor was a “hired hand”, employed by the people. I can’t really relate to that, but I can see it from his background. I do worry that if I wore vestments it could be interpreted as symbolizing that I had a uniuque priesthood over the congregation. On the other hand, I agree that it can also be a sorely needed pointer to the dignity of the role I function in.

    I agree with have an authority problem in protestantism, and that this is illustrated in this question. However, sometimes the solution can be worse than the problem. For a number of reasons, I am not ready to cede ultimate authority to a man other than Christ Himself.

    So what is to be done? How do protestants deal with a lack of orginizational authority? That is the real question. That would require a seperate post, unless I have missed one that you have already written?

    • Very interesting thoughts, Daniel. One reason I journeyed back toward a denomination with a system of Episcopal oversight (order of bishops, elders, and deacons) was because of the inconsistencies in matters of authority. Each church seemed to make their own rules, all claiming “scripture as the final authority”, many disagreeing vehemently on what that meant in terms of church government, church discipline, etc. A system of Episcopal oversight may not be perfect: I mean, the positions are still filled by humans. There is, however, a general order, whether it be a Book of Discipline, Diocese by-laws, etc, and as you climb the ladder, there are clear roles and functions that are assigned and carried out, according to the aforementioned.

      I would offer that there a lot of Protestants with organizational authority (Anglicans, Methodists, Lutherans, etc.), that a lot of Evangelicals don’t often consider to be Evangelical, because…Well, they wear vestments.

    • Daniel, given your setting, I think vestments would be inappropriate. As I said in the post, I think vestments point to something beyond the identity of the minister. I don’t think they are just about “respect” or “dignity.” In actuality, they serve to “hide” the minister and make him or her part of the sacramental world symbolized throughout the sanctuary. They are not designed to draw attention to the minister, indeed, the opposite. For this reason, I think that vestments should be simple and worn with a concern to “blend in” to one’s worship surroundings.

      One reason I think non-liturgical Christians don’t like them is because they place a high value on personality when it comes to the pastor. They also do, I think, want to feel as though the pastor is their friend, one of them, even as he or she exercises the public duties of leading worship and preaching. Vestments tend to obscure that sense and set the minister apart, no matter what the understanding is about “authority.”

      I agree with Lee, this is one of those areas of church practice that needs to be taught and discussed. Our thinking about worship, whether in liturgical or non-liturgical churches, is sorely lacking.

      • One of the things I like about vestments is that they make ostentatious personal sartorial display, at least while serving, impossible for the minister. The temptation to show off with expensive and flashy clothing is neutralized by vestments, which I think is a great thing. Perhaps the laity should also wear vestments…..

        • Well, in my case, attempting an ostentatious personal sartorial display would be the classic case of putting lipstick on a sow…

        • You can’t be serious! Have you seen some of the vestment designs out there? Sure in theory it’s to give glory to God. But in practice, I have observed a great deal of vanity and “playing dress-up” from “high church” ministers. For instance, those who boast of their collection of chasubles and the provenance of each item, have custom made pieces with designs meant to suit their personalities, who ooh and ahh over a fiddleback or a biretta, who wear things so gaudy and ostentatious it’s distracting, whether in the direction of the baroque traditionalist with three layers of lace and silk, or the progressive statement-maker with the rainbow chasuble and planned parenthood pink stole.

          I’ve heard pastors talk about vestments sounding like the Sex and the City ladies talking about shoes.

          I’m not arguing against vestments, mind you, but oh it can so easily be taken in the way of egotism, like just about anything else.

  3. I like both articles. People need to chill out and realize that pastors are there to serve them, but they aren’t hired help. I also like the idea of robes in context. They kind of have a democratizing effect. It makes so all pastors are on the same level. It’s kind of the same reasoning behind school uniforms. It also reminds me of this joke by Jerry Seinfeld about why men in the wedding party wear tuxedos.

    “The idea behind the tuxedo is the woman’s point of view that men are all the same; so we might as well dress them that way. That’s why a wedding is like the joining together of a beautiful, glowing bride and some guy. The tuxedo is a wedding safety device, created by women because they know that men are undependable. So in case the groom chickens out, everybody just takes one step over, and she marries the next guy.”

    In a live version I’ve heard of this joke, he goes on to say, that’s the reason the wedding vows say, “this man”. The man is expendable and easily replaced with another man. :-)

    • Isaac (or possibly Obed) says:

      Interesting analogy. I’m somewhat of an old-school men’s fashion-rules fan, and one of the things I appreciate about the old way of doing things was that when it came to occasions of formality and semi-formality, menswear really was something of a uniform, and it is easy to look sharp when we know the rules. Plus, our job in those days indeed was, in some respects, to be something of an accessory for the ladies, fashion-wise. I’ve recently been hired at a very traditional Anglican church, where there is a very specific uniform for the clergy, both in the various services and outside of them. Now, there’s enough variety within that uniform to keep things interesting, but it’s very nice to have a uniform.

  4. Adam Tauno Williams says:

    Yikes! :) Give the man props for being clear and getting to the point.

    I attended a Free Methodist church for several years and before that a non/un/[subtlety-baptist]-denominational mega-church. I have never been a pastor [other than a college and youth ministry `president` (never was sure what that meant other than "you do not get paid") - I've also been a Trustee. But what he says seems so familiar. Both churches had a power-vacuum problem. Decisions were either `democratic` [we voted endlessly about issues nobody was informed enough to vote on] or the decision was made by fiat [Pastor threatened to pitch a fit if it didn't go his way]. It was always awkward, time consuming, had lousy outcomes, avoided large complicated issues, and postponed-and-postponed-some-more issue after issue. Appeals up the chain-of-command usually went without a meaningful response. And the system ground slowly onward as participants grew weary and faded out to be replaced with new recruits.

    Now I affiliate most with the Roman’s. There are priests and bishops and the Vatican. I do not agree with everything. But there is order and clearly delineated roles and a lot is done with a real air of professionalism. Positions are articulated with precision and at whatever length [often quite long] is warranted. They also integrate with their local community in a way the Protestants could never manage [they'd never be able to agree on what was "appropriate" and argue about every little thing].

    I have no idea what the answer is or answers are [my personal answer: I fled]. Structurally reforming any organization is hard, and harder when that very structure magnifies inertia.

    • Here is where my subjectiveness shines through… I don’t quite understand the whole objection to authority thing (one day we should do some historical analysis on what denominations first called their clergy Father and why… it might surprise some)… I tend to go the other direction… I take those of the clerical persuation more seriously if they are dressed in albs and chasibles. There is, in my mind a respect thing going on here. So if I see a Catholic or EO priest, an Anglican/Episcopal/Methodist/Lutheran minister, Nun-in-habit or brother I tend to have a better perception from a spiritual perspective. I have a harder time taking a minister seriously if he or she is dressed in business attire, trying to look like everyone else, or dressed in some hippee/yippee new age garb.

      • Adam Tauno Williams says:

        > I don’t quite understand the whole objection to authority thing

        It is not that hard to understand; it is related to Cowboy Americanism IMNSHO – I don’t need no schoolin’ and don’t talk to me about “data” ’cause I got street smarts… A lot of what happens feels like that wrapped in “the priest hood of the believer”. Rather lousy education doesn’t help. It took me several years to realize that I couldn’t just read-the-bible as plain simple text and walk away with what it meant, especially the Old Testament. That was one part ignorance and two parts arrogance [one part testosterone and one part American].

        > I tend to go the other direction… I take those of the clerical persuation more seriously if they
        > are dressed in albs and chasibles.

        Ditto. I feel they are manning-up to their role and position. If they own it then I’ll recognize it.

        > There is, in my mind a respect thing going on here. So if I see a Catholic or EO priest,
        > an Anglican/Episcopal/Methodist/Lutheran minister, Nun-in-habit or brother I tend to have
        > a better perception from a spiritual perspective.

        +1

        > I have a harder time taking a minister seriously if he or she is dressed in business attire
        > trying to look like everyone else

        Yes, then I assume he is “doing business”. Which is something I do all day, so deference seems inappropriate.

        > or dressed in some hippee/yippee new age garb.

        Yea, those guys.

        • I must say that the term “priest hood of the believer” makes me want to busta rhyme about the travails of anti-clerical evangelicalism. Street smarts are very much needed in dat priest hood, yo.

          Alternatively, the Armenian Church has got it going on with altogether literal priest hoods.

        • +1

  5. I’ll say that autonomy and authority are a problem for many. To someone who truly understands autonomy, that person is responsible for every choice made. In a sense there is no such thing as commands to the truly autonomous. You can be trained like the Marines( take that hill). The Marines think that hesitation in the truly bad situation, when all hell breaks loose, will get you or others killed or make a bad situation worse. But that type of indoctrination has gotten people who don’t understand autonomy in trouble( do you remember William Calley, or all the Germans who pleaded following orders in WWII at the Nuremberg trials). Nor do I think that commands followed by specific groups of people doesn’t have benefits. I was on mission in Paraguay and it was a harrowing experience just arriving at any intersection. It was a free for all, nobody followed the traffic lights. When I was back in the US I was thankful just for small things like most obeying speed limits, let alone not drinking or drugging while driving.
    I acknowledge that many a Protestant misuses Mathew 23:9 about calling no man father. Jesus was using hyperbole in that instance for the people who do lord things over others. It’s obvious that Job, Joseph, Elisha, and Elijah used father in a spiritual sense, as did Paul, Peter, and John. I would have respect for another calling me “my son” or “my child”( and I’m 68). I give these as an example of a Protestant who understands there is such a thing as spiritual fatherhood. And I recognize that many different branches of Christianity don’t confuse that with our Father God as provider, protector, and instructor.
    As an autonomous person, and one who recognizes the authority of others, I appreciate the significance of the robes as symbols of respect for the liturgies, services, and calling of those wearing them. In actuality, understood properly, they are another way out of others that shows the understanding is a focus on God.

  6. Chaplain Mike, what are your thoughts on the white alb versus the black Geneva gown of the Presbyterian churches? I believe Michael Spencer went with the later for many preaching occasions, and my own Lutheran pastor uses both, integrating the later after the death of his father. I know Lutherans traditionally go white, but perhaps there is something to benefit from incorporating the black, possibly during Lent or something?

    • Miguel, my spiritual father in the Anglican Church said that gowns are for girls going to prom and high school grads, and that priests wear albs and cassocks :o)…

      • Isaac (or possibly Obed) says:

        lol that’s messed up, Lee!

        I don’t remember where I read it, but someone pointed out to me that the Geneva gown was basically academic dress (note the obvious similarity with modern academic regalia), and was adopted as part of the anti-clericalism of the Reformation. I.e. the Reformers were showing that they were qualified to preach and teach God’s word, and that was the primary function of a minister. That same source rightly pointed out that the suit-and-tie was basically standard business dress until relatively recently. The alb, surplice, rochet, etc, however, have been distinctly ecclesiastical garments since the fall of the Roman Empire. The author then wondered why we’d prefer our clergy to dress as academics or businessmen rather than men of the Church.

        That may be a bit too culturally specific, but I think the point is at least somewhat valid. I definitely know that the rubrics and canons in the Anglican churches have never considered the Geneva gown to be appropriate alternatives, though there was a big chunk of time when it was a rather common sight. On the other hand, many would argue that the rubrics and canons (at least for the CofE, at any rate) do not permit albs, chasubles, and stoles, either, but only cassocks, surplices, and tippets, though the former set is what’s most common today. Heck, most of the Anglican clergy I know have never even SEEN a tippet, much less own one!

    • Richard Hershberger says:

      I had a very conservative Lutheran pastor who used the black gown, but this is unusual. My guess is that the distinction goes back to the different approaches of the Evangelical (i.e. Lutheran) and Reformed traditions. The gown is essentially late Medieval academic garb (with the modern graduation gown being a vestigial form of the same thing). The alb is a survival from standard late Roman attire, continuing to be worn in the Roman church. In both cases the modern use is conservatism for ritual purposes (as was the pre-Vatican II Roman use of Latin). The modern Protestant churches that imagine they reject ritual also reject the gown and the alb. (One might imagine a megachurch pastor a century from today wearing late 20th century garb long after it had gone out of fashion.) The Evangelical church as a rule of thumb rejected Roman practices it considered inconsistent with the Bible, but kept the rest. The Reformed church as a rule rejected Roman practices except those it considered mandated by the Bible. So the Lutherans kept the alb, while the Reformed switched to academic attire, which seemed natural what with their all being academics already. As for that conservative pastor of mine, I never asked, but my guess is he felt the urge to distance himself from Romish practice.

      As for Lenten use, that is where the chasuble or stole comes in, with its color following the liturgical calendar.

    • I have not seen a Lutheran wear a black Geneva gown, and the others who have commented have given good explanations. I have seen black cassocks. Our pastor had someone in the church make him one, in 16th century style, to wear during October when we focus on the Reformation.

      • Vestment choice say a great deal about what the wearer believe, or, at least, they may do.

        I think I’d flee a Lutheran service conducted by someone wearing a Geneva gown. In that context, it would be jarringly out of place and pretty much scream neo-Cal to me.

        • Richard Hershberger says:

          Well,the Lutheran pastor I have in mind was idiosyncratic, and we had an idiosyncratic relationship. I liked his sermons because I could sit there and disagree with them, which was a vast improvement over sermons with so little substance that there was nothing to agree or disagree with. He and I had a lot of shared interests, and like each other personally, even as we didn’t agree on lots of things. I could completely understand someone taking one look at him or that church (which was wildly more conservative than I am) and fleeing. It was an Odd Couple match for me, but it worked.

          • Sound like a very interesting guy!

            I have no objection to black, btw, though it does get a bit dull for clericals. Glad many feel free to wear other colors now when on duty.

  7. What is the rational behind wearing a robe, gown or whatever you want to call it, and at what point in the history of the church is it clear that pastors began to wear distinguishing dress?

    • Isaac (or possibly Obed) says:

      I major part of the rationale is that this is what the church has done (more or less) since the beginning. All of the traditional vestments have their antithesis in typical Roman garb of late antiquity, adapted to the practicalities of clerical life (e.g. black cassocks were due to black cloth being cheap and priests being poor). When the barbarians’ influence changed most folks to trousers, the clergy continued to wear what they’d always worn, being somewhat resistant to change.

      Later various symbolism became attached to the vestments, such as the white alb or surplice representing the purity that comes with being baptized into Christ.

      A big part of the appeal for many today is that it presents a uniform, and the office thus becomes more important than the person in it.

      • Dana Ames says:

        Actually, fabric dyed black was very labor-intensive to produce in the days before aniline dyes, and one had to be rather well off (which some monasteries were in the late Middle Ages, along with many bishops, monsignori, etc., depending on their situations) to be able to afford it. Black dye faded very easily; the members of the communities that emphasized poverty dressed in homespun gray or brown. It went in and out of fashion, for various reasons. Read specifically about fabric at Wikipedia under “black.”

        Orthodox priests and monks don’t always wear black cassocks outside of worship; they can be dark of whatever color, and during the Paschal season are typically unbleached linen or gray.

        Dana

    • Without some kind of historical verification I have a hard time believing that the apostles and early Christian pastors (pre-300 A.D.) wore anything that marked them out from the rest of the congregation. If a pastor or priest wants to do so, and the congregation wants him to do so, there is certainly the freedom in Christ to do it. But if someone can’t take a pastor seriously because he is dressed like an ordinary person, that is pathetic. I would rather listen to a godly pastor in a t-shirt and blue jeans than a corrupt one in a cassock. Who cares what they wear as long as they love God, love people, and preach the gospel?

  8. Very interesting thoughts from Jason, particularly in regard to the congregation’s attitude toward pastor/priests. Having been on the receiving end of “anonymous” complaints as a pastor, I can say that’s extremely disheartening, no matter what it’s concerning. It also completely lacks credibility and weight. If the individual isn’t willing to speak face-to-face on the matter, or if the person relaying the complaint isn’t willing to share their name, then it really isn’t that meaningful to them. If they weren’t complaining about that, they would be complaining about something else.

    I think that any congregation needs education about vestments, if they’re to be used. My base understanding of the history of the alb and cassock is that when the Goths invaded Rome, they typically wore pants, as opposed to the normal Roman custom of wearing something more gown-like. In order to differentiate themselves, clergymen continued to wear the alb and cassock.

    There’s great meaning in the vestments: The clergy shirt and collar represent humility (not primacy) in the simplicity of the black, and the avoidance of more popular, trendy wear. It also represents availability. If I’m wearing my shirt and collar, I should never be surprised or offended if I’m approached by a perfect stranger in a public place for prayer or a spiritual question.

    The white color of the alb represents the purity of Christ, and when we put it on, we’re to think of Galatians 3:27…”For as many of you were baptized in Christ have taken on Christ as a garment”. The tying on of the cincture is to remind us of Christ being bound and eventually led to His death (Matt. 27:2 – “And they bound Him and led Him away…”. I also consider the visual image Christ presents to Peter in John 21: “I tell you, when you were younger, you used to fasten your own belt and go wherever you wished. But when you grow old, you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will fasten a belt around you and take you where you do not wish to go (He said this to indicate the kind of death by which he would glorify God.) After this He said to him, “Follow Me.” There’s also some Old Testament connotations re: “girding your loins”, reflecting self-discipline, and preparation for doing the work of God.

    I’m personally disheartened by the COE’s recent decision that clergy doesn’t have to vest. My wife considers me to be a complete liturgical nerd, and is more inclined to contemporary, laid back worship. When I told her this, though, she looked at me and said, “The American church has ruined Christianity everywhere, hasn’t it?”

    Sometimes I wonder if we haven’t…

    On a side note, I think that we in the UMC need a great deal of more emphasis on our liturgies and the sacraments…but that’s a discussion for another day…

    • Lee – I thought you were ordained Anglican……

      • I was a transitional deacon preparing for holy orders. With two babies and my training over an hour away, I found myself unable to complete the process…at least for now. We currently attend the UMC I grew up at, but I am still wholly Anglican at heart.

  9. This is off topic but perhaps of interest to Internet Monk readers:

    Franklin Graham Blasts Churches for Weak Support of Phil Robertson in ‘Religious War Against Christians’

    I don’t have anything against Franklin Graham per se and sometimes agree with him on stuff, but… it seems to me that churches, or at least some groups of Christians, were extremely supportive of Robertson’s situation with the GQ interview. Christians were out there signing petitions in support of Robertson, in campaigns to mail rubber ducks to A&E etc.

    I now wonder if the whole thing was a big set up by Robertson and/or A&E to get free publicity from the start. It sure got their “Duck” show tons of attention.

  10. As a Methodist, I would disagree that authority over the pastor resides within the congregation. It resides with the bishop and the system of itinerancy, which has many problems. A pastor signals his or her intent once a year (under normal circumstances) to either stay with a congregation or leave and accept reassignment elsewhere. A congregation knows it can refuse to change and/or make things difficult for its pastor and play the waiting game until he or she leaves.

    But a congregation has very little say on who the next pastor will be. They are assigned their next pastor by the bishop, through the district superintendent (who with an average of 80-100 churches to oversee, and a term typically six years or less, knows very little about each of their churches). The pastor really works for the bishop and the conference, even though the congregation may believe otherwise. Small congregations get the greenest pastors, the least productive pastors, pastors with problems, or share pastors in two or three (or more) point charges. Larger congregations get up-and-coming pastors. The largest congregations get the “star” pastors, who often are allowed to NOT itinerate and end up having very long pastorates (e.g. Mike Slaughter, Adam Hamilton, etc.) Otherwise, the average length of a UMC pastorate is about four years. With that kind of revolving door, and that kind of system, it is no wonder Methodist churches have a hard time getting anything going.

  11. I’ve learned much from the conversation. But I’d like to suggest another take on Pastor Micheli’s post. A friend and former pastor once lamented to me the growing consumer mindset of the congregation. They consume the worship experience rather than be consumed by it. So what I read in the post are ‘dissatisfied customers’ making there wants known. Sadly I fear we evangelicals are even worse. Keep the choruses easy and the sermons short.

  12. For a good chuckle…or wince…check out this site:

    http://badvestments.blogspot.com

  13. This tied in nicely with an article over at glory2godforallthings.com, where Fr.Stephen discusses how Americans have difficulty recognizing authority, which causes serious problems when we consider the “Kingdom” that is the Kingdom of God.

    Speaking also of vestments and hierarchy… I’ve just started attending a local orthodox church, and I find the vestments not only aesthetically pleasing and add to the beauty of the Liturgy service, but it’s also nice to visually be able to know who the priests are. I’m sure there’s way more symbolism going on here too, but I’m a total noob with the EO stuff, so I won’t make comments out of my depth.

  14. Headless Unicorn Guy says:

    That is, it reinforces the clergy/laity distinction that puts ministers above the parishioners while at the same time giving congregants the idea that clergy are the “labor” who serve under the direction of the real “owners” of the church, i.e. them.

    My main writing partner (the burned-out preacher) has been on the receiving end of this attitude, once stated directly to his face. It seems that the Protestant Reformation plus Entropy has completely reversed the Protestant view of those Medieval Catholic priests lording it over the laity. And just as extreme in the other direction. Communism begets Objectivism.

  15. Coming out of Independent Baptist Fundamentalism with a side journey into a twisted form of Charismaticism complete with prophets…it’s hard not to have a huge problem with authority. Studying history has only made it worse.