Comment Of the Day: A Minister Wore Madras Shorts To A Funeral

Nellie wrote a comment that had me muttering obscenities and also laughing really hard. She’s very talented that way. Here, you read it yourself. I didn’t want anyone to miss it:

I am a lay person with long exposure to both the Unitarian and Anglican communions – 74 years now. I am quite sure you, Peacebang, will be able to pull it off. But I am very worried about the rest of your colleagues. Our rector (female) performed a funeral in the summer for an important person in our community – full church – wearing Madras shorts, t-shirt, birkenstocks and a stole. The men in the congregation , all rural, were wearing the Canadian uniform of blazer and shirt and tie. The women had linen or cotton summer shirts. It was not good.

I find myself very distracted by the Unitarian ministers, male and female, who wear strange stoles with cabalistic designs over an assortment of street attire. Most of the street attire is idiosyncratic leading to musings about the age, the background, the self image of said clergy person. Hard to concentrate on anything they are saying.

The wisdom of a Geneva gown is that a congregant can then focus on content – can worship – isn’t tempted to see the clergy person as the current god.

The stoles – other than the Episcopal variety that were a single colour based on the liturgical season are a distraction. I don’t care that a worthy person in your last congregation quilted a skyline of the city along with symbols for all the world religions onto your stole.

I don’t want to spend 1/2 hour trying to figure out the symbolism of your “cute” stole with magic dragons on it.

Curmudgeonly yours, nellie

First of all, I want to find out who the offending minister was who disgraced the proceedings in such disgustingly inappropriate attire. There is no excuse of any kind for this kind of disrespect. This clergyperson should be confronted.

Second, what Nellie says about “magical dragon” stole is something I have never written about, but she is spot on. Save the special stoles with the “cabalistic designs” for the church setting. Yes, yes, a thousand times yes!! Thank you, Nellie. Thank you for your curmudgeonly insights that are most helpful and most welcome. Love, PB

6 Replies to “Comment Of the Day: A Minister Wore Madras Shorts To A Funeral”

  1. I was struck by Nellie’s comments, too, especially about idiosyncratic stoles. I’ve written already about visually representing something in public witness that people can recognize, and is not about your special snowflake self. I’m getting to be more that way in worship, too. I like stoles you don’t have to figure out. I have one that is soothing with a holy spirit dove. Last year, a woman on my search committee had one made that picked up the themes and colors of a quilted banner we had made to symbolize our church’s future – though it doesn’t “match”, thank BeJesus. When I wear that stole, I feel my relationship with that particular church. However, it has a soft, fun quality that does not have great authority. For that, I just commissioned one in black, red, grey & white with geometric shapes, including two chalices that are recognizable but don’t look like the “company logo”. I can imagine wearing it to challenge my people to be strong, take risks and BE THE CHURCH, DAMMIT.

    While she was making the stole, the artist showed me a few drafts, for which I was very grateful. I nixed some unintended symbols, like a red circle on a white background – “Why is our minister wearing the Japanese flag?” and a cube “Is she a Cubist? From Cuba?”

  2. I can barely imagine doing a funeral in shorts. I don’t even GROCERY SHOP in shorts! Good grief, I have enough problems with people getting used to having a female pastor, I’d be run out of town on a rail if I did a funeral in something that most people around here wear to the beach!

    Wow. Just…

  3. I actually had to google madras shorts because I had no idea what they were.

    Wow. Just. Wow.

    So much worse than the mental picture I had just reading the comment.

  4. Madras shorts? Shorts of any description in a presidential capacity is obscene.

    I will admit I have worn dress shorts under an alb in the summer, certain that I will not take my gown off until the congregation have gone home. But in an outdoor setting, i.e. interment, an alb or cassock and surplice or geneva gown are all madatory choices, with an APPROPRIATE stole, ie. white.

    For the love of all that is good and holy, save the cutsie for the appropriate time, not a funeral. I don’t care how down to earth you want to appear, you just look…a mess. Nobody is going to take your seriously…

    Yes, wearing the extra layer of clothing will be warm, but suck it up buttercup, it’s not about you. Have a reusable water bottle filled and ready to go. Leave the unprofessional attire for vacation, or vacation bible school…street clothes with a stole is a NEVER DO. EVER EVER EVER.

    Here endeth the lesson.

  5. The rector in question was confronted. People were muttering about it at the reception following the service. I spoke with both the churchwardens, (men), who smiled nervously and shrugged. It was clear to me they wouldn’t say anything so I asked her if we could meet for coffee. She instead said “we can talk after church on Sunday”. When I said that shorts etc. were not appropriate for any funeral whatsoever she said “I feel the heat more than most people. I could faint.” I just repeated “shorts are not appropriate ever”. She said “well I was making a linen dress but I hadn’t finished it”. Again I said “shorts are not appropriate”. She wouldn’t accept that so I said pleasantly “you might want to check with the Bishop and a few of your colleagues if you feel I am wrong.”

    The next Sunday she came to me and said “you were right”. And she wasn’t angry at all. So I am happy I persisted. It was very very hot at the regular service but she managed even there to wear an alb. So I guess my comments had even more clout than I had intended.

    Still I can’t imagine what she was thinking – maybe she thought that rural people wouldn’t care.

    [Thank you for caring enough to clear this up with a well-meaning but seriously misguided pastor. – PB]

  6. Praise for Nellie, for the firm, yet loving way in which she spoke with the misguided pastor. Maybe ‘Rev. Madras Shorts’ thought rural people wouldn’t care? I don’t know about other parts of the country, but in rural NC, people still have firm ideas of how to dress for funerals. Shorts are _not_ on the list for anybody.

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