Is the robing of Readers out of date? A present Reader
rarely, if ever, robes for services, even when preaching. It used
to be expected of one, as personally experienced, for 25
There is a story that the Revd John Stott, Vicar of All Souls',
Langham Place, in London, apologised to his large congregation for
appearing before them without his robes one very hot Sunday, back
in the 1960s. As lightning did not strike, he never robed
subsequently. In another church known to me, the Vicar vested only
when the Bishop visited, which strikes me as hypocritical.
The People's Liberation Army of China tried dressing all ranks
the same, general to private, but, I believe, quickly gave this up,
as insignia of rank enabled orders to be given and taken. But, for
contemporary Anglican ministers, the question whether to vest
depends on whether he or she would like to be "one of the boys (or
girls)". Does ordination and licensing set the ministerial team
apart in any way or not?
Canon Law requires all Readers to robe. Robing is not
out of date, and in many churches is still de rigueur.
Nevertheless, Readers are kind of halfway between clergy and laity,
and this position may be expressed by exercising a ministerial role
but not robing.
The incumbent will explain how robing best relates to the
liturgical expression of a particular church and the needs of the
people, and it is up to him or her to make a decision for his
assistant curates and Readers.
Christopher Haffner (Reader)
Like your questioner, when I became a Reader 32 years ago, I
robed for every service (as did the clergy), whether I was
preaching, leading evensong, administering the chalice, or simply
there in my stall, alongside the robed choir. In many places, this
is probably still how it is.
Nowadays, I robe to take funerals; but, on a Sunday, the only
person who robes in church is whoever is leading the service.
Unless we are the one doing so that day, I, my incumbent, and our
assistant priest sit amid the rest of the congregation,
indistinguishable in our dress from anyone else (apart from the
clergy's clerical collars), from where individuals go forward to
read the Bible, lead intercessions, administer the chalice, and, in
our case, preach.
No one is any the less aware that my ordained colleagues are
priests or that I am a lay minister, but the theology is there loud
and clear: that the whole church are all members of Christ, all
part of one body, all called to share in the mission and ministry
entrusted to us; and, although, as trained and licensed ministers
of the gospel, we have our particular responsibilities and work, we
are first and foremost fellow-believers. The robes gave an
unintended message: that only those who wore them could do the work
of the gospel and be part of the crew rather than just passengers.
Cassocks are only cassocks, and, with or without them, the ethos of
"them and us" can be entrenched in ministry teams and/or
congregations. But the message of the Kingdom seems to be clearer
Gillian Newton (LLM/Reader)
In years gone by, "Amen" was always sung at the end of
hymns that had a doxology as the last verse - but only then.
The New English Hymnal still makes provision according to
these parameters, but "Amen" is now seldom heard. Why? R.
Writing a century ago, the Revd H. J. Bardsley suggests
that "The earliest instance which I have met of the use of this
term [member of the Church of England] is in an early Factory Act,
[1801/2] 42 George III, c. 73. By this Act an employer of young
persons in cotton or other factories is, if they are members of the
Church of England, to take care that they be confirmed after they
are fourteen, or before they are eighteen years of age." Does
anyone know of any earlier uses of this term? A.
The service of holy communion in the Book of Common
Prayer is accompanied by two rubrics indicating that the Lord's
Supper should not be celebrated unless there are some persons
present to communicate with the priest. What are the current
guidelines, if any, regarding the minimum number of communicants in
Common Worship? J. B.
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