Monday, December 23, 2013

This . . . is . . . just . . . plain . . . stupid

There . . . is . . . simply . . . no . . . other . . . word . . . to . . .  describe . . . it.
Never mind the cassocks – vicars could soon be conducting services in shell-suits, shorts or even football shirts under radical plans to overturn centuries of Church tradition.

Rules requiring the clergy to don traditional vestments are set to be swept aside as part of a ‘makeover’ designed to make services more relevant to modern congregations.

If the Church of England Synod approves the reforms, vicars could wear whatever they deem appropriate for all their services – including weddings, baptisms and funerals.

Although most are likely to favour smart jackets, some have indicated they would adopt a ‘dress-down Sunday’ approach.

The proposals, drawn up by a London vicar, the Rev Christopher Hobbs, have already garnered the support of about a quarter of the Synod, who will debate the issue in February.

But conservatives warn that changes would dilute the identity and authority of the Church.

The Rev Andrew Atherstone, a senior theologian, welcomed the move, saying that garments such as cassocks and surplices were a relic from a ‘bygone age’ and a form of ‘power dressing’ that was a barrier to getting the Church’s message across.

And the Rev Peter Owen-Jones, a TV clergyman and self-confessed ‘old, long-haired hippy’, said he would be prepared to wear his normal garb of jeans, shirt, waistcoat, beads and battered hat for baptisms and weddings if that’s what his parishioners in East Sussex wanted.

He added: ‘The time has come to end the blanket requirement for everyone to wear robes, but I would be very sad to see that tradition go entirely.

'We must be sensitive to the fact that the majority of people still enjoy the fact that priests dress up in this Roman clothing, which is what it is.’

He said clergy had ‘very poor dress sense’ and the idea of them turning up in ‘smart casual’ clothes sent a shiver down his spine.

Bishop Graham Cray, who is in charge of the Archbishop of Canterbury’s efforts to lure people back to the pews, said he would be prepared to don jeans and T-shirts at certain services ‘when it was appropriate’.

He added: ‘There are people for whom vestments are profoundly helpful and those for whom they are a real obstacle. If we are putting on a service for those who find such things an obstacle, robing is crazy.’

But traditionalists are enraged by the proposals, with one senior Synod member saying it could lead to clergy conducting services in tracksuits.

He said: ‘Some clergy already won’t wear a clerical collar. Soon they will be wearing shell-suits in the sacristy. We need to keep a sense of identity as Anglicans, and the robes are a way of providing that.’

Even leading liberal and Thought For The Day contributor the Rev Giles Fraser, whose normal attire is jeans and a T-shirt, said: ‘It’s outrageous. Is nothing sacred?

What will they do next? Maybe we will have Jaffa Cakes and Coca-Cola instead of bread and wine at Holy Communion.

‘What I really hate is the trendy vicar. They are like trendy teachers. No one really believes in them.

‘Vestments are a very ancient part of the Church’s tradition and they bring dignity to worship.

‘What we have here is an attempt to make worship all terribly chummy and I would choose dignity over chumminess every time.’

Image consultant Veronique Henderson, of Colour Me Beautiful, said the Church should keep a uniform but it ought to be modernised, suggesting scarves decorated with crosses..

‘They need to show their authority, but the full robes can be very intimidating,’ she said.

Ecclesiastical robes, which have their origins in the Roman Empire, have been enshrined in laws since 1604. The current rules date from the 1960s and say clergy conducting communion must wear a surplice – a white outer garment – or a longer version called an alb, with a scarf or stole around the neck.

Other garments such as copes (long cloaks) may also be worn. Formal robes are required for occasional services such as marriages and funerals.

The new motion says that clergy will be able to dispense with all vestments if they have the agreement of their parochial church councils and bishop.

There is already no Church law that requires clergy to wear a dog collar, but they tend to do so because they are urged to dress appropriately as a mark of their office.
Memo to the Archbishop of Canterbury and all others trying "to lure people back to the pews": You might try dusting off those old Bibles and Prayer Books which you obviously aren't making much use of these days. If all you have to offer the people is the same kind of worldly pleasures they can find in the tavern down the street, they're going to stay in the tavern.