That’s not what the clergy wear that distinguishes them from each other (Surplice requirement: vicars don’t need a cloak – said With the E, July 11), and what they say and do, what many, especially young people, render the Church irrelevant. Belief in the forms of literal biblical fundamentalism and doctrinal Orthodoxy does not resonate with much of contemporary culture. It is unfortunate that the Church spends time discussing Church hats and human sexuality over the issues that really have an impact and consequences for lifestyle and life. They should not be named, they are too well known.
People still look to the Church for urgent and radical challenges and problems of social cohesion, the fight against poverty, inequality and justice. At least the vestments enable communities to know and to define who the Minister is presiding.Canon Of The Cathedral David JenningsLeicester
• I’m not a priest. I used to be one, but I retired more than five years ago. On Sunday morning, now sitting with my wife on the back Pew of our local Church, carefully avoiding its sharp right elbow that is always ready to help me in the ribs if she thinks I’m going to make a comment. Like most parishioners, I dress casually.
However, most Sundays I pulled on the organ, as the parish cannot afford to pay for a proper organist; and for this I dress equally casually. From time to time I am asked to preach and participate in the Eucharist, which I like to do. These days I wear a black shirt and tie, and gown at the appropriate vestments: ALB, stole, chasuble. I do not believe that these vestments confer on me any special status, or that they make me more important than any other member of the congregation: they just that the priest has to focus on what is happening in the service. They are also countercultural, reminding people about the otherness of what we do. I could preach or celebrate the Eucharist only as good in shirts, and has done so many times in informal activities in the open air or in people’s homes: but not on Sundays in the local Church.
The Church of England tradition is one of great flexibility. The discussion in the General Synod about the wearing or not wearing were nothing special. It’s just legalizing what has become common practice in the expression of this flexibility.
My only regret is that it can lead to more and more is boring old men in business suits and flashy ties.John WilliamsChichester, West Sussex
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