A question of identity?

Victorian Black Vestments

I need to get up early in the morning for Radio Leicester. It is because General Synod have approved new legislation that means clergy need not always wear robes when leading worship in church.  This comes in that same month that the Queen opened parliament without wearing a crown and the Speaker of the House of Commons has relaxed rules on members wearing ties.  I am not sure these things are directly connected but they do seem to capture something of the spirit of the times.

So I have had to do some thinking – and I have found a picture I took a few years back to go with the thoughts.

I have clocked that the clothes we wear say something about us. If you wear a blue top and shorts in Leicester you are going to be identified with the Foxes (a football team if you don’t live in these parts). When the Queen dressed down to open parliament she conveyed a message that this was not such a great threshold of national life as new parliaments sometimes are; “Business as usual!” And I guess that MPs who choose not to wear ties will be dissociating themselves from the managerial classes. They may identify more closely with the majority of people as a result – unless the majority of us want to see politicians cast in such a mould.

So what of us clergy? Well there are times when people want us to be clearly cast in the role of the religious minister. But always? The argument to relax the rules on clergy dress have been strongest in some of our fastest growing churches. It may be that people are more likely to listen to church leaders who identify most with them. There are special times demanding special clothes, but most times are ordinary times.

The way Jesus identified with people gives me pause for thought. He was never associated with religious leaders.  Some people called him Son of God but he always talked about himself as the Son of Man.

Getting up in the morning has never been so complicated. I feel an identity crisis coming on. I am comforted by thinking it will be just as bad for MPs deciding whether to wear a tie or not and the Queen working out what hat to wear.

Published by

Tim Stratford

Very Revd Dr Tim Stratford Dean of Chester

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