Saturday, February 14, 2009

Copes and Consecrations: Now and Then

A reader sent me photos of the consecration yesterday of the new bishop of Southern Virginia, Herman Hollerith IV at William and Mary Hall on the College of William and Mary campus in Williamsburg. The Diocese of Southern Virginia is one of three Episcopal dioceses in Virginia, which includes the original Diocese of Virginia currently led by Bishop Peter James Lee.

The Presiding Bishop was wearing her sea breeze vestments that she wore at her installation as the Presiding Bishop in 2006, but what caught my attention was seeing Bishop Peter James Lee.

Not only was he wearing a mitre (which we have seen on rare occasions, very rare) - but he was wearing a cope. In Virginia. He was wearing a cope in Virginia. Now maybe they wear copes in Southern Virginia (that Tidewater area can be tricky on the best of occassions), but to see a Diocese of Virginia bishop wearing a cope - I just can't recall such a thing. He doesn't even look like himself. I have to admit, I am, well, surprised. Someone get Bishop Moore (see photo, no cope) and Bishop Meade (see photo, no cope) on the phone.

Now, I do know that copes and mitres and all kinds of vestments are important to many Episcopalians - I've been gently corrected by a few friends when I called the little purple or red hats I saw at the Lambeth Conference in Canterbury "beanies." I am truly sorry about that. Bishop Ackerman took us through the most fascinating historical instruction lesson at our daily Eucharists in the Undisclosed Location in Canterbury that were truly fascinating and I enjoyed those teaching moments very much.

Bishop Ackerman in a cope, yes. Bishop Iker in a cope, yes. Even Bishop Duncan in a cope, yes (with reservations). Those make sense. But Bishop Lee in a cope? That makes no sense at all. I even looked up Bishop John W. Howe's consecration to see if Bishop Lee wore a cope. Nope. Bishop Lee preached and left his cope in the closet where it belongs.

I guess we can imagine he's worn a cope before - after all, he is an Episcopal bishop. They do like to wear them, especially these days. I just don't recall ever seeing him dressed in one. Theologically, I didn't think it was his cup of tea.

The photos are lovely though and should play well in Richmond - or will they? Please, someone, get Bishop Meade on the phone. One can only imagine what he'd have to say. Perhaps it's time to do a rousing chorus of this song, yet again.

By the way, since we did come across it, here's Bishop Howe's consecration in Orlando. It's filled with an Episcopal who's-who of 1989. There are actually some shots in the audience of yours truly when she was twenty-something, a lifetime ago. Was this really twenty years ago?

UPDATE: Interesting conversation going on in the comments. Order a chai or butterbeer and pull up a chair here.


Anonymous said...


Yes, I have been made aware of the regional differences in TEC etc over the past several years. Growing up Church of Christ, we had NOTHING but suits, and if contemporary worship...khakis and polos. However, I came into Anglicanism through Fort Worth and Dallas...we like being sacristy rats down here!!! I am very used to copes, mitres, zuchettos, birettas, dalmatics, tunicles, amices, etc. When my parish joined CANA I remember the variety of churchmanship at the various gatherings. A bishop WITHOUT a cope is an anomoly down here. My new parish rector is a bishop and has cope and mitre...and my suffragan bishop also has a cope and mitre.

Even the "low church" folks, like in VA, have been getting in on it, it seems. But here's the seems that the liberals of TEC LOOOOVE hides their lack of credibility...the "moderate" bishops will probably start wearing more and more episcopal attire to hide their shiftiness. Did you see +Gulick's horrid cope he wore to the Fort Worth Shadow Show??? Just as bad as the Seabreeze horror that was next to him!!! Ugggh!!! Oddly enough, +Lambert of Dallas was in rochet and black chimere at that event...and he went to Nashotah!!!

1662 BCP said...

Equally distasteful as the proliferation of "cassock-albs".

Miss Sippi said...

Pshhaw. Wimpy. I'm becoming an Orthodox catechumen next week -- now honey, we got VESTMENTS! :)

Jill C. said...

Amazing that 1989 was indeed 20 years ago. Thanks for sharing the video of that important occasion. And yes, I did spot you in the congregation, Mary!

Anonymous said...

Yes...poly cassock-albs with hoods need to go...

Anonymous said...

OK - what is a cope? What does it signify? Did Jesus wear one??

Anam Cara said...

Welcome home, Miss Sippi

Kevin said...


Here I think you are reading WAAAAaaaaay too much into things. It also may be gender where you think guys are not use to the "uniform," I have many "uniforms" that I do own that I rarely ever use.

I own a suite, it is the same suit that you will see at a wedding or funeral. I have a Boy Scout uniform, I've know the difference between black tie and white tie.

Here you are actually off base in thinking you know Virginia. If +Lee was requested, the gentlemanly politeness would dictate that he not be a rebel and do what he is most comfortable, but put on the uniform that the party dictates.

Maybe it's a guy/girl thing, but my genders fashion is often predetermined and we'll generally do what is expected of us. You really do have to go to the lengths that KJS has with her vestments before us guys tend to notice.

BabyBlue said...

Here's what Wiki says about the cope (which was linked in the story): "The earliest post-Reformation prayer books of the Church of England contemplated the continued use of the cope, whereas the alb and chasuble were eschewed. In the contemporary Church of England and the Anglican Communion as a whole, the cope is worn by Anglo-Catholics and High Church Anglicans in the same manner as that of the Roman Catholic Church. In the Broad Church (rarely in the Low Church), the cope is sometimes worn in lieu of the chasuble at the Eucharist (over either a surplice or an alb) especially by bishops and other prelates."

Truro does use the cassock-albs for the twelve Lay Eucharistic Ministers (LEMs) for each of the Sunday Eucharist services. I recall Martyn Minns telling me that in fact, they come out of the "broad" church as well. They were introduced at Truro when the Sunday services went from monthly to weekly Eucharists. I know that this opening of Lay-administered sacraments for men and women at Truro coincided with legislation that came from General Convention at the same time that permitted lay men and women to be licensed by the diocesan bishop to administer the sacraments. For a while the evangelical churches in northern Virginia had "cup bearers" for a while (and I noted that at some of the Episcopal churches in the area they continued to wear the cassock and surplice from morning prayer (which at Truro the choir continues to be vested in).

Incidently, it took a little while for both men and women at Truro to administer the bread - for a while the male clergy continued to be in that role, and then male LEMs took the role as Truro became to large for the clergy to handle the entire congregation, but when Truro welcomed its first woman associate rector in the 1980s that began to open up the role of women taking a more active role in the Eucharists on Sunday morning until it is now recognized that all licensed Lay Eucharistic Ministers may administer the consecrated bread and wine.

The vestments are not really considered "uniforms" but are a form of expression of worship in and of themselves. The early reformers understood those vestments to reflect the theology held by those who wore them. I recall in a class I took at Trinity Episcopal School for Ministry in Ambridge that the prof told a story of an incident during the height of the Oxford Movement (which of course led to the split of the Reformed Episcopal Church who were fiercely low church at the time). During the Eucharist the celebrant went to put on a chasuble before he began the celebration of the Eucharist. A member of the congregation was outraged and ran up to the Holy Table where the priest stood in his chasuble and ripped it right off him!

I remember this because following that course I went with a fellow student to visit a mutual friend of ours from Virginia who had just become rector of a church in Virginia. Sure enough, as the celebration of the Eucharist began he too put on a chasuble (I know how much he had been looking forward to that after years in Virginia!) and my friend took my arm and whispered to me ("I'm holding you back!"). It was so inappropriate to laugh at that moment.

But because the vestments themselves do indicate the theology of the celebrants, they are an outer sign of inward convictions.

There are some really helpful essays and info I've found on the theology of wearing of vestments:

here, and
here, and

Here's some info on the history of vestments in the Anglican tradition:

The first Book of Common Prayer, issued in 1549,instructed that “ Upon the day and the time appointed for the ministration of the holy Communion, the Priest that shall execute the holy ministry, shall put upon him the vesture appointed for that ministration, that is to say: a white Alb plain, with a vestment [a chasuble] or a Cope.” If a deacon or subdeacon assists the priest they were instructed to wear albs and tunicles. People may be familiar with these vestments as they are worn at all Solemn Eucharists at St. Peter’s church. For other services the priest was instructed to wear the cassock and surplice.

The first Book of Common Prayer did not satisfy the more extreme reformers in England who felt the Church had not gone far enough in reforming its life and liturgy. The second Book of Common Prayer was issued in 1552 and reflected significant changes directed in a more protestant fashion. . The traditional Eucharistic vestments were not permitted. The cassock and surplice were the only vestments allowed. Some Anglican clergy of the period influenced by Calvinism shunned vestments altogether and chose to wear secular clothing both in daily life and leading worship, often to the dismay of their congregations and bishops. They saw any vestment, even the simple surplice, as a symbol of the excesses and errors of the Roman Catholic Church from which they had broken away.

During the reign of Queen Elizabeth I the third Book of Common Prayer was issued in 1559 and attempted to reflect a balance between protestant and catholic minded Anglicans. It restored the use of the traditional Eucharistic vestments of the alb, chasuble or cope. Out of the reformation the cassock and surplice appeared as the standard vestment worn by Anglican clergy for all services of divine worship for centuries.

Then of course came the Oxford Movement in the mid-19th century and through the leadership of the Virginia bishops at that time, Virginia remained firmly in the anti-Oxford movement camp and that continued for a hundred years after that, which again is why seeing Bishop Lee all dressed up was a bit of a shock. I am used to seeing Bishop Lee in seersucker suits - not in cope and mitre!

In England now there is a distinct theological trend away from vestments all together. That was earlier seen in the Episcopal churches, though many of those have all ready separated from TEC (not all though, as the Diocese of South Carolina illustrates). At Truro we do not vest for our Saturday night services, though the celebrant will put on a stole before celebrating the Eucharist.

In England, however, it is a theological (and not just cultural) decision not to wear vestments at their services - much of it inspired (though certainly not for all) by the Vineyard movement (which somewhat ironically has its roots in the Friends Church or Quakers - John Whimber was originally a Quaker!). I find that delightfully ironic.

As much as I may approve theologically, though, it can make for difficultly in connecting newcomers to the local church to the wider church (which, frankly, is a part of the theological position). Bishop Sandy Millar tells a hilarious story about vesting one Sunday at HTB (where is extremely rare to see vestments at all, even collars by the clergy) when the Bishop of London was making his annual visitation. Sandy reintroduced the processional and everything (also extremely rare at HTB - and by the way, was only introduced at Truro for for the first time in the 1940s-50s!) and,appropriately vested with the bishop, processed up the aisle one Sunday morning.

As he came up the aisle, he was met by gales of laughter (pretty amazing for our British cousins) for they didn't see Sandy in vestments but wearing a dress!

Sandy said he took care to prepare everyone for the next time the bishop came to make a formal visit (which is how it came across, as formal) so that the people understood what the vestments mean.

Which of course, is the whole point - and why we do inquire now.


PS Frankly, these are important "elephant in the room" questions as we attempt to come together in a new province in North America. These issues can sometimes be far more explosive than the "presenting" issues of sexual identity and gender roles. But we can also see how such traditional expressions may be used to give an image of deeper historic stability than it is often the case. Certainly something to consider - I continue to encourage the wearing of vestments as an outer sign of one's inner theological convictions. So - Bishop Ackerman, yes, wearing the high church vestments makes sense. Bishop Guernsey, no, that would make no sense at all. And Bishop Lee, well, that's a mystery.

Anonymous said...

Thanks BB - very helpful explanations. I am happy if people wear fancy copes if they really must .....or jeans (which makes them much more accessible to outsiders!) long as they are faithful in speaking the truth in love, that is what really matters

Kevin said...

I'd agree that vestments is an interesting topic for ACNA.

Where I think your off base in the context of trying to considering this consecration, +Guernsey should own the full get up in case he is asked to participate in such a service and he would show the most respect to wear it. In the man's world, it's really not an opinion, if something is black tie, you don't come in a suit or in tails, it's just what is done.

BabyBlue said...

That is interesting, Kevin. I would say that a cope is distracting not enhancing of worship. It distracts me from the center of worship, Jesus. I do not see a cope as "black tie" - but the simplest of dress, as we saw in Mother Theresa as a model to live by.

That being said, I do appreciate the other forms of worship that would include the cope as an outward expression of one's inner theology. But I wouldn't call it "black tie." That is a sign of my own low church theology. One is not necessary to ordain priests or consecrate bishops, as we saw recently at the CANA consecrations at Church of the Epiphany) - it not considered bad manners.

Since I am Anglican, however, I appreciate the primates who wear them - but I would still much rather see them leave their copes and mitres in their closets. I understand though why they bring them out. It's just that Jesus put aside his kingly robes and we are all to follow his example. That being said, I understand the richness of our traditions and appreciate the diversity that comes in those rich traditions, as they are based on the uniqueness of Jesus Christ as revealed in Scripture and organized for worship in our prayer book.

I still can't imagine John Guernsey in a cope. It was hard enough to see John Howe in a cope. I think I'd have to take a long walk around the block to get over it. ;-)


Kevin said...

It would probably be harder for you to get over seeing than for Bishop Guernsey wearing.

I'm a jean/T-shirt guy, but I do pull off Tux or Tails pretty well, (& I enjoy the sheer shock value), but generally low ball comfort in my day to day. Yet, every once in a while ... it's kind of like playing "dress up." I'd imagine it's the saimilar for Evangelical bishops who don't want that area to be a stumbling block for any High Churchman that they oversee.


PS -- Odd thing is I've seen +Lee in a cope before, in fact I may have assisted him with it as an acolyte, but in the context of a High Church setting (full deal w/ chair & everything), but never at Truro.

Kevin said...

PPS - I do hope in the ACNA that they show clergy a little love when inviting them to participate and spell out exactly what they mean by any mid-range level of vestments ... nothing strikes fear into my heart as telling me something is "business causal [which is everything from polo/kackies to sportscoat & tie]."

Anonymous said...

I grew up Church of Christ, as I mentioned above. It was suits or khakis/polo. The argument was that the minister should blend in and not be set apart from the almost became like a defense of class warfare. But I find that people had just as much to say about his ties and choice of shirts etc, as I have ever heard about vestments since becoming Anglican. Also...usually lower church clergy tend to vary their clergy shirt and jacket colors...being more conscious of their choices of stripes, colors, fabrics, etc in their attire...ironically, for many higher church clergymen, it's black, black, and more black...maybe even a crazy jacket in "Oxford Movement charcoal" them and those they minister to, "they" disappear in the eyes of those they minister's more about the sacred trust of their office. As one with a "high" theology, it is less distracting to me when the celebrant "disappears" and acts as "Persona Christi"...I don't care to see the "individuality" of the clergyman in his dress. And as one in process to become a clergyman, I have to ask myself if I am representing Jesus Christ or representing me in my office. that doesn't men that I have no personality...I am a very artsy and fun guy...I resist "boring". As a seminarian, my bishop may permit me to begin wearing the collar, as many Anglican, Catholic, and other groups sometimes allow or require of their seminarians as part of preparation. In a way that gets me into the mindset that I am NOT my own. So when I don that amice and alb, stole, maniple, chasuble, cope, zuchetto, and's not me anymore. It is me giving way to the office that God and the Church entrusts me with. I am not here to make a fashion statement. But let's all be honest, no matter what our view...low or high or's what we are used to that we are not distracted by. It's interesting that I am now more distracted by a layreader in khakis/polo, than one in cassock and surplice. Not a communion dividing issue...but important when we ask ourselves the tough questions of theology.

BDP <><

Anonymous said...

Also...I find that Gen X and Gen Y are not THAT afraid of clerics in clericals...there will be some that are put off by it...and some that are drawn to Jesus by it...I can't telll you how many times I have heard clergymen say that they were asked important things by people because of their collar...and that person might have never done so otherwise. it works both ways. But htis Gen X/Yer believes his call will be to wear it...and there will be sacrifices and blessings both that come with it.

BDP <><

it's margaret said...

Hi BB--

I am a lurker, and I come from vastly different theological bent than you, but I appreciate your clarity so come here to find out what you are thinking...but there was something about this post that kept nagging me.... so here I am.

+Lee is my Bishop. A couple of weeks ago he made his annual parish visit, and as he was vesting I was surprised when he pulled out what I would consider academic or evening prayer garb to wear for the Eucharist. I asked about it, joking and saying I had never seen a bishop in a rochet and chimere until I came to VA. He laughed and told me he only wears a cope and mitre upon special request. And that his alb was so worn out...and he was resistant to buying a new one as he was retiring so soon.

So, I would suspect that he is wearing the cope and mitre upon special request..... it is definitely not his personal style.

Your historical posts about "the clothes" were quite good and thorough. And, indeed, what we wear might say a lot about what we believe... but it's not always about the clothes... is it?

BabyBlue said...

Excellent post, margaret. I am inclined to think it was for the photo op after all.


Anonymous said...

We have to keep thinking of how to reach people.... are we with them, speaking the truth in love to them on the Mount of Olives or are we sitting in our temples with our mysterious traditions waiting for them to come to us....and if they come, do they feel like outsiders or can they understand what is going on and relate?

Anam Cara said...

In my Orthodox Church, when the Bishop comes, part of the "service" before the Divine Liturgy is the vesting of the Bishop. As each piece is put on, he explains what it is and why he wears it and how it is different from what the priest and deacon wear. Very informative and makes one appreciate all the symbolism in the Bishops vestments. They aren't just "party dresses." Like all the commands in the Old Testament for the table of shewbread, the lampstands, etc., everything has a meaning that enhances worship when you understand the meanings...

I would assume that the same would be true of the Anglican communion. That things aren't just done because they always have been done, but there is a meaning, a symbolism behind that points to Our Lord and Savior if one would just understand. Your rubrics tell WHAT to wear, do they tell you WHY?

Anonymous said...

Don't the "invitations" for such events specify what clergy are supposed to the wear?

I had no idea they have lay administration of the host at Truro, and I find it rather shocking.


Anonymous said...

I agree that we should not be in our "temples" and ivory towers waiting for people to come to us...quite so. But what I get sick of is people assuming that all "seekers" are horrified at the Church's patrimony of Traditions. What many in my generation notice is that there is a common revulsion among Baby Boomers in the Body of Christ to things like vestments...traditional music and traditional language and such(I like ESV, RSV, and NASB...not so much NIV). At my former parish the handful of young adults(and yes, the high schoolers look bored, too) cringe at the SAME five contemporary songs being done over and over while the parents swoon...the abandonment of traditional language...and the insistence by 45-65 year olds, that the younger generation doesn't want the "old stuff"...that is hogwash!!!!!!! Many young people are drawn to the Truth and the Mysteries of Our Lord Jesus. Why do so many go to Wicca, neo-paganism, hedonism, Celtic spirituality, etc??? They seek a connection to something ancient and stable in an everything goes world their parents left them. Let's be careful with our do all with excellence...and NOT forget our past...even if we do some things in new ways. Like many of my friends have said..."If I see another "Willow Creek" priest or hear Days of Elijah, Shine Jesus Shine, Shout to the North, Above All again, I am gonna barf on someone!!!"

Anonymous said...

At my former CANA parish I was a LEM and a Seminarian, but was not to handle the Hosts...only the chalice...and not go open the Tabernacle. of course this varies parish to parish. The parish before that I was a Sacristan and did all but celebrate and read the Gospel.

BabyBlue said...

Holy Cow, anon. Well, that's pretty high stuff there. I bet it was a beautiful service though. Did you have sanctus bells and the smokey stuff too? I used to love it at "Smokey Aggie" in DC where I'd go for Eucharist during the week. But no girls allowed beyond the communion rail! Sigh.


Anonymous said...

My first Anglican church...absolutely NO bells and smalls...they are now AMiA and it fits. My second parish became a CANA church...and it's a mixture of low and high things...sometimes a bit disjointed...but there are occasional bells and smells on high feast days...chasuble every Sunday. My new parish for my seminary assignment is a CANA parish that is higher still in its practice, no contemporary worship, and they use a Missal/1928 hybrid liturgy...quite the checkered past!!!

Anonymous said...

And on top of all this, I am a charismatic with a prayer language and have danced in church...go figure...