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Liturgical Sensitivity?

When I was learning to be a minister... No that's not right, I'm always learning to be a minister...  When I was at 'vicar school' I spent a year working with an Anglican who described me as being 'liturgically sensitive' by which she meant I had an understanding of the liturgical year, knew the how and why of liturgical colours and had grasped something of the multisensory aspects of Anglican rituals.  The next year I worked with an RC priest who took dressing the church, and dressing himself, for worship very seriously.  Some of the RC rituals are visually incredibly powerful, and something obviously stuck with me, as I make quite a point of 'dressing' worship spaces and for special services think carefully about how what I wear (as well as what I say and do) relates to the occasion.

Good Friday in Dibley is a case in point - the Anglicans, of course, robe, whilst the Methodist minister and I wear our 'funeral suits,' he with a black clerical shirt, I with a violet tee shirt (Lenten/penitential colour).  On Easter Sunday he will wear a pale shirt and I usually my red suit.  The contrast is often noted by congregation members, so it presumably is effective.

Pentecost is another 'red suit day' as is Christmas day and any other great festivals we may have along the way.

Last Sunday was red suit and Santa hat - because it is a fun outreach service, and it needs to say we are inclusive not exclusive.  Today is our Christingle service for which my liturgical attire inevitably includes some tinsel, for no better reason than it's fun; probably today it will be the green suit (no, not liturgical 'ordinariness' it's Christmas tree colour!!).

All this is probably not very 'Baptist' is it?  I mean, jeans and a jumper would be more typical these days.  Also, as I struggle with the kind of incarnate iconography that accompanies some understandings of priesthood, am I just capitulating (and have clearly swallowed a dictionary this morning)?  I think not.  I think what I'm doing is saying that there are time and places when the visual speaks as much as the audible, and that attention to detail matters.  if that constitutes liturgical sensitivity, then I'm happy to embrace it.


  • In recognition of the birth of Christ, various members of my Christmas morning congregation will probably be wearing the traditional Baptist Christmastide accessories, namely Father Christmas hats and flashing ties and ear rings. Note that the term 'accessories' does not denote a belief that these adornments gain you more favoured access to God's grace - or even a more honourable mention in the Christmas morning sermon!

    Intriguingly, I wonder what Smyth and Helwys thought of Christmas all those (four) centuries ago? Not that it matters on this occasion. I've already observed Advent, so I'm up to my neck in times and seasons.

    For myself, I'm struggling to remember what happened to my Rudolph the Reindeer socks, and may eventually be relieved not to remember.

    However, I was also wondering about wearing the dark red dressing-up-and- going-to-a-party shirt, so I'm obviously not a complete liturgical philistine (I think they wore feathers on their helmets).

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