The good news appears to be that were I to become ordained in the Church of England, I could, perhaps, officiate in my bikini – had I such an article of clothing (I don’t – sorry to disappoint Neo 🙂 ). At the moment what can be worn is strictly controlled by canon law and liturgical rubrics. Currently, a surplice or alb with scarf or stole must be worn at holy communion, morning and evening prayer on Sundays and at weddings, funerals and baptisms. In many churches it has become the fashion to ignore this, but instead of telling vicars to smarten up, the Church Synod is going to discuss relaxing it altogether. This seems a little counter-intuitive to me. Ministers have worn vestments for the longest time because it marks out what they do as sacred, different from what happens in the everyday sphere. Even the mere act of vesting before a service is a sign that something special is about to happen, and I know of instances where someone in their clericals has been approached and asked for a prayer by a perfect stranger.
My own Anglican tradition is hardly likely to be taking advantage of any lightening up of the dress code, and I do hope that whatever happens, bikinis will remain far away – but in an era where we have had clown masses in Roman Catholic Churches, who can tell?
It is a sign of a lack of reverence. I cannot help myself. When I go into Church I dress as though I am going out to an important event – as I am. So I put on my best clothes and make sure that I am ready to meet Jesus. When I get into Church I hate anyone chattering – there’s time for that at coffee after Mass. I need time to prepare myself, so I arrive about half an hour before Mass starts. How those who arrive at the last minute can be ready for what is to come I can’t imagine. Is this my form of Pharisaism? No, it is simply a matter of respect. When I go to receive communion I kneel at the altar rail and receive on the tongue because the only hands that should handle the blessed sacrament are those of the priest. Afterwards, I pray in silence. Recently someone has adopted the fashion of having a hymn during communion – I wish they wouldn’t, but I can tune out.
In short, for me, as for many, this is the highlight of the week. My priest is properly vested according to the rubrics, that is his sign of respect for the order the Church insists upon, The Church does so not because it is pharisaical, but because it wishes to mark off the sacred from the profane. In front of the reserved sacrament, I kneel, how could I not in the Lord’s presence?
It may be that our irreverent age cannot understand these things, but then, so much the worse for the age. As I say, and alas for it, any change won’t change what happens in many places now, it will just excuse it. It won’t change what we do where I worship, or, I guess, in many places, but it is a sad sign of sad times.