Monday, October 31, 2011

Pieces of prayer that should be memorized

As Episcopalians, we have a Book of Common Prayer that lies at the center of our spiritual lives. It is a great resource, and a treasure for the spiritual life. In its pages can be found an entire school of prayer, and an entire theology of God, the church, and human nature.

Using the BCP, we are assured that our prayers speak with the voice of the whole church, and aren't simply the whim and desire of the individual priest. We speak on behalf of the church, after all, and not from the sinfulness or agenda of our own hearts.

The BCP allows us to read or chant many of the prayers from the text directly. There are times, however, when I have found it good to have certain prayers memorized. Mostly this is for pastoral reasons, when the need to make eye contact or appropriate gesture would make it difficult to be staring down into a book.

Here are the prayers that I have memorized, or am working on memorizing:

  • The Collect for Purity "Almighty God, to you all hearts are open..." (which I pray facing the altar, in orans)
  • Absolution at the end of General Confession "Almighty God have mercy..." BCP p. 360
  • The "Standard" blessing at the end of Holy Eucharist (required in Rite I, optional but typical in Rite II) "The peace of God which passeth all understanding..." BCP p. 339. Note that the Book of Occasional Services contains seasonal blessings and Lenten prayers over the people.
  • I discovered during CPE that I needed to memorize these two prayers from ministry at the time of death, found on pp. 464-5: The prayer called the Profiscere: "Depart, O Christian soul, out of this world..." and the Commedatory Prayer: "Into your hands, O merciful Savior..." 
  • Also, if you do a healing liturgy, you would benefit from memorizing whatever prayer you will pray while laying hands on a person or anointing them. 
Anything else, other learned clergy?

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Of Albs and their Accessories

The Alb is the foundational vestment of liturgical ministry. Lay people, deacons, priests, and bishops all wear the alb when leading in the liturgy. You've seen it in seminary: white, close fitting garment usually with a rope girdle or cincture belting it.

Concelebration alb
There are different sorts of albs. The most common these days, I think, are cassock-albs. These wrap around like Sarum ("Anglican") cassocks and have snaps at both shoulders. I've heard that they're an invention of the CM Almy company, who still make them for men and women. You might get them with or without small inserts of lace.

Then there are various sorts of "monastic-style" or "concelebration" albs which are a little fuller in the cut. They are styled, I think, on monastic habits and the sleeves are generally huge. The collar is often hood or roll-neck.

The Amice
The most traditional form of alb is like a slim-cut surplice, and is worn with an amice. The amice is a rectangle of cloth with ribbons that goes around the neck and shoulders underneath the alb. The alb then has a slightly wider neck on it, because the amice is taking care of covering the wearer's neck and shoulders. This alb closes with buttons. This alb (which I own) closes with a tie.

Lots of companies make albs, and practically any of the companies that sell ecclesiastical wear will have some sort of alb for sale. Almy seems to be the standard cassock-alb maker, or at least I see their stuff in plenty of sacristy closets. If you want to go the traditional alb & amice route, you can try Gaspard, or Watts and Co. or Wippell. The Benedictines of Mary seem to make them, too. You can also Google "abbey brand alb style 55" and see all the Catholic church supply places that sell that model.

What I have:

  1. Almy Rolled-Collar contemporary alb. I wear this one for times when I'm not wearing a chasuble. I have a big neck, so I like the loose fit around the neck with this one. 
  2. Gaspard traditional "pull-over" style alb, along with a Gaspard linen amice and cincture.

Gaspard traditional alb
Almy Rolled-Collar contemporary alb

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Newly Ordained Shopping List

Here's what I recommend the Newly Ordained Person should have in his or her closet in the first few months. You can add the rest later.
  • good black shoes
    • Seriously. Good, solid, comfortable lace-up black oxfords. Black socks, too, while you're at it.
  • cassock
    • It is worth getting something custom-made. Wippell, House of Hansen, Duffy and Quinn, and Renzetti Magnarelli all do custom work in the US. I think the big houses like Almy and Gaspard do, as well. Trevor Floyd can get you a cassock via Slabbinck, too.
    • Get either a Roman kind (with all the buttons) or a Sarum kind (the double-breasted "Anglican" cassock). It really doesn't matter, unless you're contemplating wearing a biretta. Birettas with sarum cassocks look silly. 
    • Get a sash to match it. 
    • Don't get one of those little capes, and don't get cuffs. These things have meanings to them, so if you do your research first, then you can get them. It's up to you.
  • clerical shirts
    • Get a good mix of tab-collar and neckband shirts.
  • black suit
    • Women and men, both. Whatever works for you as a suit, get one that's in black. Get two and press them.
Then these things get to be slightly less important. Get them early on if you're going to do so, especially if you're at a parish with a splendid choral Mattins or Evensong tradition. Definitely get them if you're somewhere that does Lessons & Carols. 
  • tippett
    • Don't mess with pinked ends, where they cut 'em with that jagged fringe. They seem to wear out quickly that way.
    • Go ahead and get seals on 'em if you like. Traditionally you get your seminary on one side and your church on the other. I have the Anglican Communion compass rose and CDSP's seal. 
  • hood
    • I earned it, and I paid thousands of dollars for the right to wear that hood. I bought mine at graduation.

Getting Dressed For Worship

You learned what these are at seminary, but we'll quickly review. If you need help with what the things actually look like, Ken Collins has descriptions and pictures.

Now, basically, as a Newly Ordained Person in The Episcopal Church, you've got two big categories to think about. The first is the category of Choir Dress. The second is the category of "liturgical" or "sacramental" vestments.

Choir Dress
You wear choir dress when you are sitting in choir. Seriously. In practice, this means you are doing something liturgical that isn't technically leadership in a sacramental liturgy. Evensong? Not sacramental, so you wear choir dress. Officiating at Holy Matrimony? Sacramental, so you don't wear choir dress. Attending, but not participating in a festal Eucharist? You aren't acting as a leader in a sacramental liturgy, so, yup, choir dress. Alright, now, Christian Burial without a Eucharist? Here's the tricky question. The tradition of the church does not consider Christian burial to be a sacrament (sacraments are for the living), so you'd wear choir dress.

In our tradition, this means at least a cassock and a surplice. If you want to get more formal, add a tippett. If you want to get really formal, add a hood. The Anglican look is the round-yoked surplice that is fully gathered. There is a Roman surplice that is square-yoked and pleated. It looks good, don't get me wrong, but it doesn't look good with tippett and hood. 

Your tippett will be black. You can certainly have the seals of your seminary and The Episcopal Church sewn to it. Check with your bishop first, or your rector if you start out as a curate. Both Almy and Church Publishing sell tippet seals. Church Publishing's are much, much nicer.

Liturgical Vestments
You wear these when you're leading in a sacramental liturgy. Again, things break down basically by how high up the candle you are. You're likely to see:
  • cassock/surplice/stole
  • alb/stole/chasuble (at the Eucharist)
  • alb/stole/cope
The first option is common for Low-church/Evangelical settings. Here, you could easily go with either the English (gathered, round-yoked) surplice, or with the Roman (pleated, square-yoked) surplice. Pop a stole on over that, and away you go.

The second option is I think probably the main-stream in Episcopal Church parishes these days. The alb is the basic white garment of the baptized. The stole is a symbol that goes with the order of ministry. This is why deacons have one kind and priests another. The cope has nothing to do with holy orders at all. It just looks jolly nice. A bishop might wear a cope in a liturgy in which he or she wasn't presiding. A lay person might wear a cope to officiate at a solemn Evensong. The chasuble is a functional symbol; it means that you are the presider in the sacrament of the Eucharist. 

Getting Dressed For Work

Clericals are what we call the day-to-day wear of clergy. You may choose not to wear clericals at all. The Roman Catholic priest in my town never wears a collar except for Sunday mornings. But clericals are a distinctive part of the uniform. They can be part of our vital witness to the presence and ministry of the church in the community. 

Going back into recent history, the most distinctive feature of clergy dress was not the collar. It was the color black! 

There are basically two types of collar: the tab-collar, which has a little strip of plastic that slides into the sides of the shirt collar; and the neckband collar, which is a long strip of plastic or starched fabric that attaches to the shirt with buttons at the front and back.

Neither type of collar is specifically "catholic". This bugged me when I first started wearing tab collars, and people would say, "but you're not Roman Catholic, you're Episcopalian! You should wear the neckband collar!" This is patent nonsense, my friends. Now, in England, where there is more factionalism between Evangelical and Anglo-catholic, it does serve as a subtle indicator of one's affiliations, but for you, don't worry about it.

What I have in my closet (everything purchased from Almy): 
  • 5 black short-sleeve tab-collar shirts
  • 1 grey short-sleeve tab-collar shirt
  • 1 grey long-sleeve neckband shirt
  • 1 black short-sleeve neckband shirt
  • 1 black long-sleeve neckband shirt
So everything is either black or grey. I don't believe that my clergy attire should scream "fashion-forward!" but "a priest of the church". You might disagree. That's fine. 
I've got more tab-collar shirts, since that's what I tend to wear on weekdays. They're much more comfortable, and you can pop the tab out and undo the top button when you're driving somewhere. It's a blessing in the summer.

Collarettes/Tonsure collars

I wear the neckband shirts mostly on days when I know I'll be wearing a cassock. The reason is that the whole white circle of the neckband can be seen above the edge of the cassock, and then can be seen in its full height at the notch in the front of the cassock. This look (which I think is super-classy) has been replicated with special sorts of neckband collars called collarettes. See a photo here. If you buy a clergy shirt that's designed to have this look, it'll be called a tonsure shirt.


I spent five years at a seminary of The Episcopal Church, eventually getting 2 degrees. I studied my Greek and homiletics, theology and liturgics, pastoral care and Christian Education, music and history. There was a lot to learn in the curriculum, and the faculty did a fantastic job. Really, seminary could be twice as long and I'd still be learning stuff. 

But seminary, like every "professional school", can't teach everything. 

What I didn't know was where a person could buy an amice. Didn't actually know what an amice was.

So this site is filled with bits of knowledge that I have gleaned in my first years of ordained life.