Thursday, July 23, 2009

Dress for Success

I'm supposed to be working on my sermon for Sunday...
so I'm blogging instead.
See, I told you doing pulpit supply would get me to blog more often. ;-)

Two days ago I finally did something that I've been avoiding for months (and dreading for years) - I ordered my first clergy robe.
I need to have one for my Field Ed internship this Fall, and I'll be filling in for my pastor when she takes her sabbatical next summer, so it was time to stop fighting my belief that I have not yet "earned" the right to wear a robe and go ahead and order one.

I ordered TWO, actually.
A white alb:

...and a black Geneva robe:

I prefer white, and the alb is lighter in weight so I'll probably end up wearing that one next summer, but the pastor at my Field Ed site holds the belief that white should only be worn when one is performing the sacraments, such as on Communion Sunday (once a month in the UCC). On non-communion Sundays the pastor is filling the role of "teacher" and thus should wear the more academic black robe.

I've talked to other pastors about this and they claim there is no hard and fast rule and its simply a matter of preference, but when in Rome do as the Romans do, so I will be wearing a black robe at my Field Ed site.
(Conforming to the Romans...Jesus would SO not approve)

The plan is that I will be licensed by our local association to consecrate communion at my home church before next summer, so I can wear my white alb during the sabbatical fill-in safe in the knowledge that I'm not violating any unwritten dress codes.

As for feeling that I have not yet earned the right to wear a robe, I find that many of my fellow seminarians have mixed feelings about this. In the UCC tradition, its ok for seminarians to wear robes/albs as long as they don't wear a stole, because it is the stole that distinguishes one as being ordained. In other traditions its ok to wear an alb when not ordained, but not a black Geneva robe.
Personally, I feel like I'm play-acting when I wear a robe, and to me, a black Geneva gown without a stole looks too much like a graduation gown or a judges robe.
I don't feel pastoral when wearing one, I feel like a poser.
Perhaps that will change once I have a year of Field Ed under my belt, but right now I still feel like a lay-member who fills in for the pastor every once in a while.

Some seminarians have practical reasons for not wanting to purchase a robe until they're officially ordained - clergy robes are expensive ($165 for the alb, $200 for the robe, and that's on the cheap end). Most seminarians are on limited budgets, so why purchase a robe that's only going to be worn a few times at a Field Ed site during the second year, when it may be another two years before one becomes officially ordained? Students who are on the part-time 5-years til graduation plan have an even longer wait, so if you buy a robe in seminary make sure you don't gain any weight or it may not fit when you finally get to wear it. ;-)

While I've had a few pastors tell me that its inappropriate and impractical for a seminarian to purchase/wear a robe, and I still feel that I've yet to earn the right to wear one, the pastor at my Field Ed church requires it, so a robe I shall wear!

And if you need any civil cases decided in the mean time, give me a call!

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