Thursday, May 3, 2007

stolen moments

Last weekend I attended my denomination's District Assembly and participated with several other ministers in the Saturday morning worship. Later in the morning a man stopped me and told me that he felt that the fact that I hadn't worn any sort of clerical garb during the service detracted from the "pageantry" and that I had been disrespectful. Usually in my own church I will wear a shirt and tie, or sometimes a suit. Some ministers in my denomination wear robes; I don't own one. And others will wear a stole, which is a long rectangular piece of coth draped over the shoulders. The stole is the symbol of ordination and I was given one that my mother made for me when I was ordained, but I never wear it. My style is more casual and contemporary, and I've never had anybody comment on it before.

It wasn't a big deal but the comment did stay with me sufficiently so that on Wednesday as I dressed for a Vespers service I was participating in I told the story to Peleg and we laughed about anybody expecting "pageantry" in a Unitarian Universalist worship service. I shared the Vespers service with three other ministers: two dressed in robes, the thrid wore a suit, like me, but he wore a stole over his suit.

Wouldn't you know, after the service, a man (not from my church) asked me why I didn't wear a stole, and I explained my problems with it, both theologically and that it doesn't feel like my style or the style of my congregation. and then a few minutes later two women who are in my congregation told me that I looked out of place among the other ministers and that they felt I needed a stole. Significantly one of the two women is a seamstress who could make me a stole. So it appears that I may soon be wearing one.


Edward said...

I was thinking of sending a copy of this blog to Renee F. but then when I got to the end I figured her spirit had received the message allready!

I agree with you; but feel that you might want to "cloak" yourself to prevent further comment!! Ha! :)

juffie said...

Ah, Ricky, you seem to feel the robe or stole is for you, about you, or even about your theology. I think it's for the congregation, about the congregation, and about they ability to be the most present in the service. It's only a piece of cloth, for G-d's sake!

If people will be made happy by it, or feel that a different look enhances these moments, expresses the specialness of these moments (not the specialness of YOU, notice, but of these MOMENTS) - maybe it's a good idea. I always wore a robe doing interfaith weddings - helped the families "know" I had the right to do what I was doing, doncha know.

Rev. Ricky said...

you're so right. In ten years of ministry I've never worn a stole because I thought (and despite the events of this last week I still think I'm right about this) that the two congregations I served prefered I didn't. We were creating a kind of religious community in which that symbol didn't belong on the minister.

Theology does matter. The stole is designed to set the minister apart. Sometimes that's appropriate, but there are other ways to create that space without wearing a stole. But very often that distance contradicts the spirituality I'm trying to live from and teach.

Boy in the Bands said...

Please don't wear a stole over street clothes; its a mixed vesture metaphor and almost always looks sloppy and ill-conceived.

And don't let people cow you out of your accustomed pulpit attire: both gowning and non-gowning have long histories among Unitarian and Universalists. Stoles are the relative newcomer.