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Archive for the tag “clergy”

Forcing priests to wear robes ‘absurd’, says theologian – Telegraph

Forcing priests to wear robes ‘absurd’, says theologian – Telegraph:

Clergy should not have to wear robes during services because such rules are ‘absurd in the 21st century’, according to a leading theologian.

Garments such as the cassock and surplice are a form of ‘power dressing’ which reinforce class divisions and prevent the wearer getting the Lord’s message across, said the Rev Andrew Atherstone.

In a report titled Clergy Robes and Mission Priorities he called on the Church of England to allow ministers and parishioners to decide what dress code was appropriate.

[schori_technicolor_yawn.jpg]Hat (aye, well, mmm) tip to Father David MacGregor of Port Elizabeth, who adds, in his own blog Contact Online Weblog: “And when, O when, will we see the last of those absurd hats ?”

Anglican Priest Father David Heron comments: “It is well known that evangelical clergy don’t like wearing clerical robes because they don’t believe in the priesthood, and they like to pretend they’re laymen. Now a raving Protestant says they should be abolished altogether! Crazy”

And I think, crikey, the 21st century? Have we reached it already? What a surprise!

And my mind goes back 40 years to a previous generation who said much the same thing as the Rev. Andrew Atherstone. The only difference was that it was the 20th and not the 21st century, and they weren’t British Evangelicals, but Dutch Roman Catholics.

When I was studying in the UK in 1966-67 I spent the Christmas vac with some Dutch Augustinians in Breda and Nijmegen. And one of the ways in which I thought they were quite kinky was that they held views like those of the Rev (isn’t Rev a bit 19th century?) Andrew Atherstone — that their religious habits were a bit passe in the 20th century, and so they got all up to date by wearing business suits.

A friend of mine from England came and joined me for a week, and remarked that as the Dutch religious were abandoning habits for business suits, just the previous week he’s seen a DJ on a British TV show wearing a monastic habit. These Dutch monastics were so desperately trying to be with it that they were quite without it.

We persuaded one of the Dutch Augustinians to put on his habit specially for a photo.

The previous summer the British satirical magazine Private Eye was advertising T-shirts with “Jesus saves” and “God is Love” printed on them, and John Lennon appeared on the front page of the Daily Mirror wearing one. I ordered a few, and persuaded the Dutch Augustinians to wear them with their business suits.

Oh yes, and the “Karl Marx” one I was wearing also came from Private Eye

But as for John Lennon and the Beatles, by the time I was staying with the Dutch Augustinians, they looked like this:

As we used to say back then: Dress happy.

As for me, I’m just glad that Orthodox clergy are not required to wear that most ludicrous of articles of attire, the dog-collar.

Bishop Alan’s Blog: Vicarage Allsorts: Clergy Supply

Bishop Alan’s Blog: Vicarage Allsorts: Clergy Supply:

After 30 years of designer angst about clergy shortages I am amazed that this should be so, but the simple fact is that there are actually more active C of E collars on the streets of England in 2005 than in 1959. I don’t know about you, but this surprised me. It also strikes me as the kind of raw figure that won’t be of any interest to Fleet Street, because it neither provokes fear and anguish, nor validates their prejudices and fantasies about the C of E.

The distribution, however has entirely changed. The preponderance is distributed more, I would guess, according to population. The bad story then was rural/urban. Now I would anticipate it to be North/West as against South/East. There are far fewer full time collars of the conventional sort, but far more retired active and self supporting. Looking ahead this means their shelf life and deployability is far lower. People in the 1960’s complained that vicars were too young and inexperienced about the rest of life. Now they complain that they’re all on second careers. You can’t have it both ways! Or can you? Training needs, however are radically different.

The report Bishop Alan was quoting was picked up by a journalist of the Sunday Telegraph to produce an alarmist report quoted by Fr David MacGregor, and prompted Bishop Alan to take the mickey Bishop Alan’s Blog:

The most important person in a business is always, in a way, the person on the front desk. The wellbeing of clergy is, in that obvious sense among others, vital to the wellbeing of the Church. Since Chaucer’s time there’s been public anxiety about this subject. 200 years ago Sidney Smith lamented the decline in the quality of clergy since the enforcement of residence was preventing gentlemen from desiring ordination. In the roaring 20’s, Hensley Henson bemoaned the decline in the quality of ordinands since the first world war. The document quoted in last week’s Sunday Telegraph, however, is barking up a very different tree. A more accurate headline than “poor quality of vicars alarms church leaders” would probably be “desperation to dramatize drab HR questionnaire twits journalist.”

I find this interesting because though it was a different time and a different place, 30 years ago I was responsible for training self-supporting clergy in the Anglican Diocese of Zululand, and I thought most people in the diocese had the wrong idea of the role of self-supporting vis a vis church supported clergy.

Many parishes had anything between 5 and 30 “outstations”, and the clergy would itinerate to celebrate the Eucharist. I thought each outstation should have, if possible, 2 or more self-supporting priests and 2 or more deacons. The “rector” (who need not necessarily be ordained) should be a pastor/teacher (a somewhat different kind of ministry) equipped to train and support the clergy at the outstations, and itinerate for training and teaching, not sacraments.

That was the sort of thing advocated by Roland Allen in his book Missionary methods, St Paul’s or ours? nearly 100 years ago, but never really put into practice anywhere. I still think it should be applied, mutatis mutandis, in Orthodox mission, though in practice it would need to be modified. It is difficult to have self-supporting clergy, since most of them would be among the urban unemployed.

Among Anglicans in South Africa there may have been similar patterns. In 1971 a book was published. The vanishing clergyman : a sociological study of the priestly role in South Africa by Trevor Verryn. He noted a marked decline in the number of Anglican ordinands in training. Within a year or two of the publication of his book, the trend was dramatically reversed, as a result of the spread of the charimatic renewal movement, and at least one of the Anglican theological colleges in South Africa had to be enlarged to cope with the influx of new students, most of them married and entering second careers.

There was a similar study to Verryn’s in the Church of England, The fate of the Anglican clergy: a sociological study by Robert Towler (London, Macmillan, 1979). Though it was published eight years later, the period of study was similar to Verryn’s; Bob Towler followed the 1966 intake of five Anglican theological colleges in England over the next 10 years. I was one of them.

It was quite an interesting period, and I suspect one of great change in outlook for many — the time of hippies, of student power. Now most of those in Towler’s study will be approaching retirement, and it might be interesting to see what has happened to them and how their views have changed. How did they change the church, and how did the church change them?

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