Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Our New Pastor Dresses Funny Pt. 1 (Bulletin Article 2)

As you may remember so many months ago I arrived here to RLC in the middle of the penitential and somber season of Lent.  At our mid-week services and for Holy Week services I wore what was referred to by some as a “black dress.”  Unfortunately, I didn’t have pumps to go with it.  It’s hard to see but that clergy garment is what I’m wearing in this picture.  It is called a cassock and derives from the Middle French word casaque, meaning a “long coat”.  It is traditionally adorned by 33 buttons in a single column, one for each year of Jesus’ life on earth.  In both the West and the East the cassock was the daily “street” clothes of clergy for centuries.  

Lutheran pastors serving in British colonies here on American shores continued to wear such distinctive clergy coats with tab (white) collars.  With the expansion westward and the nature of life on the frontier these became less frequent among clergy.  But at the turn of the 20th century Lutheran pastors rejoined clergy of other denominations in wearing black or dark suits with clergy rabat or black shirt and clerical collar.  Up until the 1970’s the common Sunday morning worship attire for Lutheran clergy of all stripes was cassock, surplice (white over-garment), and stole.  For those who have been at RLC during that time you likely have pictures of your former pastors dressed in such attire.  I know I saw one of them on a YouTube clip of the ground breaking ceremony of the original church building.  With the cultural changes of the 1970’s Sunday morning vestments changed as well and became what is currently in use today alb and stole with or without chasuble (all of which I will talk more about in more of these notes). 

Given the historical significance of the cassock and its more solemn and formal look it continues to be retained in use by Lutheran clergy today.  If and when you might see myself or other Lutheran clergy wearing the cassock, it would likely be when leading the daily prayer offices (Matins, Vespers, and Compline- LBW pages 131-167), funerals, or during Lent and Holy Week.  As with all types of clothing, the old styles always come back in fashion maybe they will among clergy as well and you’ll see more cassocks.  I’m just praying the neon colored clothes and zebra print pants of the 80’s stay dormant for a very very long time.         

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