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Discarding Readers’ robes

12 April 2013


Your answers

Is the robing of Readers out of date?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 years.

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 Robing is not out of date, and in many churches is still de rigueur.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)
East Molesey 

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 without.

Gillian Newton (LLM/Reader)
Salisbury diocese 

Your questions

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. W. C. 

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. B. 

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. 

Address: Out of the Question, Church Times, 3rd floor, Invicta House, 108-114 Golden Lane, London EC1Y 0TG.


Wed 25 May @ 15:54
(When) Thou shalt be angry https://t.co/k4CBkH54v2

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