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Church of England votes for “casual Sundays”

Church of England votes for “casual Sundays”

In a legislative move which follows current practice rather than dictating it, the Synod of the Church of England has moved to relax the formal requirements for clerical attire during celebrations of the Eucharist, as well as weddings and funerals.

The Guardian reports,

The C of E’s ruling body, the synod, meeting in York, has given final approval to a change in canon law on “the vesture of ordained and authorised ministers during the time of divine service”.

Clergy are currently required to wear traditional robes – a surplice or alb with scarf or stole – when taking communion or conducting one-off services such as weddings, funerals or baptisms.

On Monday, the synod rules that clergy could adopt different forms of dress, with the agreement of their parochial church council. Where there is disagreement, the bishop of the diocese will have the final say. For weddings, funerals and baptisms, the consent of the principal participants must be gained.

Traditional clerical robes date back centuries, but the rules have been increasingly ignored – especially in churches with modern, informal styles of worship.

One commenter worried that this could lead to clergy being co-opted into “themed weddings,” becoming color-coordinated with the bridesmaids. Others, however, pointed to the flexibility to dress appropriately for different settings and communities, particularly among young people for whom the formalities of the past might be an obstacle.

In practice, clergy have already adapted their dress as needed to different situations. The current legislative move will bring these developments within the letter of canon law.

Read more reactions at the Guardian.

Photo: a recent Chrism Mass at York Minster, via the Diocese of York on Facebook


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jane cooper

On the one hand, I hate when people say we’re doing this to attract young people. Young people hate to be pandered to. If it were up to them, you’d just go ahead and treat them like real people. On the other hand, I think it’s possible that there might be other good reasons for flexibility.

Jim Pratt

Foregoing vestments to be “trendy”, “hip” or whatever adjective you want to insert is the wrong reason, as many commenters have stated. But context is everything. In the winter, my midweek Eucharist moves from the Lady Chapel to our Guild Room, so that we don’t have to turn on the heat in the church (6 to 8 hours of the furnace running full-blast to bring it up to a comfortable temperature for a 45-minute service for 5 people). We sit in a circle around the table, and in lieu of a homily, we have an discussion on the readings of the day. In that context, I do not vest, except for a stole, which I usually put on at the offertory.

On the other hand, I would never think of not vesting for a wedding, even one outdoors. It is important (and consistent with the canon) to emphasize the religious nature of the vows.

Fr. Kevin Crinks OSF

I think the amendment to the Canons is to allow flexibility in different worshipping contexts (eg school services, etc), and only with agreement between the parish priest and Church Council. My own parish has a long tradition of wearing vestments and I will continue to do so, subject to my Church Council’s agreement.
I cannot imagine a wedding couple requesting me to wear anything other than my customary vesture and a white stole. There is dignity in wearing the “right” things, and it is a service of worship, not a pantomime!

Robert Beicke

I serve a parish ministering with and to the homeless — they are among our greeters, ushers, readers,choir, and altar servers. One homeless man mentioned the opportunity to be vested meant that he did not advertise his “lack of status.” And when reminded he was as much a child of God with or without vestments, he said he felt he both “gave respect and got respect” being vested.

Thom Forde

What complete nonsense!!! And that was NOT why the Queen wore regular attire for the opening of Parliament.

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