The Homiletical Event

At every priest’s ordination there comes a moment when the Bishop presents a Bible to the newly ordained with these words, “Receive this Bible as a sign of the authority given to you to preach the Word of God and to administer his holy Sacraments. Do not forget the trust committed to you as a priest of the Church of God.”

Although the prayer book frequently makes mention of the ministry of “Word and Sacrament”, sadly homiletics—the craft of preaching—has not always had as much attention in the Episcopal Church as the sacramental, liturgical side. (Or for that matter, even as much as the social justice, mission and outreach side.)

That’s tragic because good preaching can be so important. At the preaching workshop I attended in May, Canon Mark Oakley of St. Paul’s Cathedral in London reminded us, “Our words are sacramental, too, like the bread and wine and water. They are outward and audible signs of inward and spiritual grace.”

I was blessed to have some amazing preachers among the people that formed me for ordained ministry. I served as a parish intern in seminary at a small parish where the homiletics professor, the Rev. Kathy Calore, served. She was a brilliant preacher and a terrific teacher, and I was blessed to watch her at work, both in the classroom and at Sunday morning parish worship. Later we got a new homiletics professor, the Rev. Dr. Bill Brosend, and I ended up working as his assistant.

Both took preaching very seriously. Bill frequently reminded us that the goal in every sermon was to answer what he called “the Homiletical Question:” What is the Holy Spirit saying to the people of God through these readings on this occasion? There is an art and skill to effective preaching, that’s true, but one must never underestimate the ability of God’s Spirit to take what are plain words strewn together and to make out of them a living message that touches us to the core.

Over the past year, I’ve come to believe that the sermon on Sunday morning may be one of the Church’s most important evangelistic tools. For a person off the street, who normally isn’t a church-goer but has happened to wander in to our pews, the worship may be a challenge. We sing music that is very different from what you hear on the radio. We participate in a liturgy that is ancient and strange with a ritual meal that probably seems confusing and awkward. We read from texts that were written thousands of years ago.

In the midst of all that strangeness, I think the sermon is probably our one chance to really connect with this visitor. It is our one opportunity to bridge the gap between ancients texts and life today and to demonstrate that the Church does have something meaningful (even helpful) to say. It is our moment to bring Good News of healing, hope, and peace, in the midst of a fast-paced chaotic world.

We cannot and must not squander that moment. I think it’s important that the Church invest in good preaching as a way of reaching out to those who need to hear God speaking. Already there is great work going on. The Episcopal Preaching has been trying to create future generations of great preachers, and there are even rumors that the once defunct College of Preachers is being reestablished.

I’m trying to do my part by helping with the planning and facilitation of a new training program for licensed lay preachers, upon whom more and more of our small congregations are relying for weekly worship.

The Vestry has graciously supported me in further developing my own preaching through a Doctor of Ministry in Preaching program at Sewanee. This program, designed for working clergy, will help me to continue learning and growing. Much of the work will go on at home behind the scenes, but there will be a few weeks of residency and intensive coursework at Sewanee each summer where I and others will learn from other great preachers and teachers.

It is exciting and daunting all at the same time, and it gives me hope for the future of the Church.


The Bishop is coming, the Bishop is coming…

On November 23, the Feast of Christ the King, our bishop, the Rt. Rev. Douglas J. Fisher, will be visiting my parish, St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church in Westborough, Massachusetts.

The visit of a Bishop is a special event. The Canons (official governing rules) of the Episcopal Church stipulate that the Bishop visit each congregation in the diocese “at least once in three years” during which the Bishop “shall preside at the Holy Eucharist and at the Initiatory Rites.” In some dioceses, there are few enough parishes that the Bishop can visit every parish once per year. In larger dioceses, there may be a team of Bishops who help cover these visits. In our diocese of 60 or so congregations, the Bishop visits about once every two years.

One of the customary things a Bishop does during the visitation is to administer Confirmation to candidates who have been preparing for this sacramental rite. This year we have six people who have been preparing for Confirmation since January. There is also one more person, who, although already baptized and confirmed, has been preparing with them and will publicly re-affirm her baptismal vows before the Bishop.

Confirmation has a long and somewhat complicated history in the Western tradition of Christianity. We find its root in the practice of the original apostles. St. Luke, writing in the Acts of the Apostles, notes that people, after deciding to follow Jesus and being baptized, were brought before the apostles so that the apostles could lay their hands on them and impart the gift of the Holy Spirit. One such instance is recorded in Chapter 8:

Now when the apostles at Jerusalem heard that Samaria had accepted the word of God, they sent Peter and John to them. The two went down and prayed for them that they might received the Holy Spirit (for as yet the Spirit had not come upon any of them; they had only been baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. Then Peter and John laid their hands on them, and they received the Holy Spirit. (Acts 8:14-17)

The ministry of the apostles was handed to those who took their places, who the church came to call “bishops.” This apostolic ministry of leadership has continued to be handed down through the generations to the present day, even to Bishop Doug Fisher in Western Massachusetts. Following that biblical example, Bishop Fisher and other bishops continue to visit parishes and to lay their hands upon faithful people with the prayer that they received the gift of the Holy Spirit.

In many places, also following an ancient custom, those who are confirmed are anointed on the forehead with the Sacred Chrism, that same blessed and perfumed anointing oil that we use at Baptism. It is a reminder of the “seal of the Holy Spirit” that was imparted at Baptism.

The Bishop’s prayer for candidates at Confirmation is that God will strengthen them with the grace and gifts of the Holy Spirit so that they can live out their vocations and ministries in the world. I still like the traditional prayer that the old Prayer Books used before the laying on of hands:

…daily increase in them thy manifold gifts of grace: the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and ghostly strength, the spirit of knowledge and true godliness; and fill them, O Lord, with the spirit of thy holy fear… (1928 BCP, p. 297)

This beautiful prayer lists the traditional seven gifts of the Spirit that the book of Isaiah mentions (Isaiah 11:2).

The late liturgist Leonell Mitchell framed the rite well, writing, “Confirmands affirm their baptismal commitment, and God renews the covenant and empowers them with the Holy Spirit to fulfill their baptismal promises and live the baptismal life to which they are committed.”

So as we prepare for the Bishop’s visit, please remember to pray for our candidates for Confirmation, and on the morning of November 23 gather with them to welcome our Bishop to this wonderful house of God.

Helping Our Assyrian Brothers and Sisters

NunThat red mark in the photo. That’s how it started. No, that’s not a lazy attempt at a smiley face found in some urban American alleyway. It’s the Arabic letter nun, spraypainted on an Iraqi house, as a visible sign to all around that the inhabitants are Nazareni, i.e. followers of Jesus of Nazareth.

As the group known as ISIS (or ISIL) took control of northern Iraq, they set out to purge all Christians and other religious minorities (including dissenting Muslim groups) from the country. Those targeted were given the choice to convert, pay a faith tax (which many could not because of economic restraints), or die. Many have fled, but others have been killed. In July alone, an estimated 18,000 were killed.

The religious group of Yezidis were not even given the option to pay a tax because they do not meet the “People of the Book” criteria, which would have offered some limited protections under sharia law. As a result, women and girls from among them have been kidnapped and sold into slavery by ISIS soldiers and many more have been killed.

By the time you read this article, I’m not sure if there will be any Christians left. By the beginning of August, already Mosul has become devoid of Christians. Over 200,000 have been displaced since ISIS invaded.

It’s a shocking tragedy and an ongoing genocide. It is also heartbreaking to consider that these are Assyrian Christians and that this year marks the 100th anniversary of the Assyrian Genocide under the Ottoman Empire, when some 400,000 Assyrian Christians were killed.

We haven’t heard as much about this situation in the American press as I would have liked. For most of June and July, the majority of information seemed to come from local reports within Iraq. I particularly followed the work of Canon Andrew White, an Anglican vicar in Baghdad. He has boldly stayed in the regions affected so that he can help those who are being terrorized. In his reports, he begs us to stand in soldarity with them.

Sure, this is a tragedy, but it’s been a summer of tragedies. So, why am I so concerned about this particular issue? Because they’re my family. We were all baptized in the name of the same God into the same Body of Christ. Those being persecuted are my sisters and brothers.

I also am reminded of how seriously St. Paul takes that notion that the Church is the “Body of Christ.” He writes to the faithful in Corinth that what happens to one member of the Body of Christ affects all the other members as well.

How can we help right now?

First and foremost, pray. I know it doesn’t seem like a whole lot, but I believe prayer can make a difference in the world. Our Presiding Bishop called Episcopal churches to observe a day of prayer for these victims on Sunday, August 17, and at my church we participated in that call to prayer. I hope people will continue to pray individually and corporately for peace for our sisters and brothers. I am working with colleagues on planning an ecumenical prayer service for these victims in October.

Help raise awareness. It doesn’t necessarily just happen. To add insult to injury after the 1914/1915 situation, historians and leaders didn’t formally recognize the genocide until about 2007. We can’t let any act of ethnic or religious cleansing be swept under the rug. Speak with our leaders at the state and national level and demand that they support efforts to stop this persecution and to provide aid to the survivors.

Contribute to relief agencies. The Diocese recommends contributing to the Baghdad church’s Foundation for Relief and Reconciliation in the Middle East (, but there are also respected Assyrian Church relief organizations, like the Assyrian Church of the East Relief Organization ( Or, you can make a donation to St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church in Westborough (marking “Iraqi relief work” in the memo), and we’ll pass it on to trusted relief agencies.

We can make a difference. Never underestimate the healing power of Christ.

On Spiritual Direction

LabyrinthSpiritual Direction is something close to my heart. It’s something we generally don’t talk about much, unless someone is in the process of formation for ordination. That’s a shame because it is such a wonderful, helpful practice, one that the experience of countless Christians throughout the centuries has proven to help spur a person’s spiritual life to further growth and development.

Spiritual direction at root is about relationship: the relationship between the directee and the spiritual director helps deepen the directee’s relationship with God. The Center for Religious Development in Cambridge puts it like this: “We define Christian spiritual direction as help given by one Christian to another which enables that person to pay attention to God’s personal communication to him or her, to respond to this personally communicating God, to grow in intimacy with this God, and to live out the consequences of the relationship.”

More and more people are discovering the power of spiritual direction. Whereas once, you might have only heard it talked about in monasteries or seminaries, now many people—from all sorts of spiritual traditions and church backgrounds—are seeking out spiritual directors to help them stay in touch with the spiritual part of their lives. Eugene Peterson, the author of The Message version of the Bible, has even advocated for it in books and articles.

I started spiritual direction about 14 years ago as I began discerning my vocation. There have been times when I’ve been without a spiritual director, but I try to sure that those periods are short—because life is just too complex without a companion to remind us that God is always in the midst of it all.

My monthly hour with my spiritual director is something I look forward to, and it’s even more helpful after having a spiritual director for a couple years. By then, my spiritual director has really gotten to know me, to know my tendencies and hang-ups, to know my strengths and the areas I continual need to work on.

It’s hard for me to describe spiritual direction because it’s ever-changing and the only constant is God’s presence and the relationship between me and my spiritual director. The nature of spiritual direction changes because life is so fluid and circumstances change so often.

Sometimes our conversation is encouraging, helping me to find signs of God’s handiwork in difficult circumstances. Sometimes the session is more prodding, challenging me to grow more or make more time for God despite how busy I might think I am. And, sometimes the session is exciting, beckoning me to try new ways of praying or discover God through new opportunities.

People explore spiritual direction for different reasons at different times. Some do it because they have to as part of their formation for ministry. Others do it because they recognize the importance of spirituality and want to grow closer to God. And it’s not uncommon for people to start spiritual direction because they’ve hit one of those rough patches in life and need some help finding God again.

Ashes to Go? Or, No?

            So I did it again this year. Ashes to Go. My more cynical friends may say I jumped on the bandwagon or drank the Kool-Aid. But that’s okay, I’m happy I did.Image

            Admittedly I’m a late-comer to the movement. Ashes to Go has its roots in ecumenical cooperation. Around 2007, in the St. Louis area, a group of diverse clergy from an assortment of church affiliations, met as they regularly did, for Bible Study. In casual conversation and laughter, one of them suggested offering “drive thru” ashes. It was an off-handed joke, but it got them thinking.

            Several years later, in 2010, clergy from three Episcopal churches in Chicago decided that they would give it a try at places like train stations, where busy commuters went to and fro every day. They were overwhelmed by the response and the gratitude of those who took them up on their offer.

            Then in 2012, things spread nationwide. Enter me. As most of my parishioners and friends can tell you, I’m a traditionalist. I’m not a fan of trendy worship. You’ll find no projection screens or drums in my sanctuary. Give me the good ol’ fashioned Prayer Book and a set of vestments (but proper ones, not the sort that our beloved Presiding Bishop wears).

            Gathered at a clergy event in our diocese, several fellow priests, whom I really respect, were talking about giving it a try. Several of them were traditional too, and they had very pastoral and evangelistic reasons for wanting to try it out.

            As much as I love good liturgy, I also love people—and I have a particular care for the underdog. So, I thought I might just bite the bullet and try it out here at my local train station too.

           I had become good friends with another Episcopal priest in town who served a neighboring parish. We talked. He was game. I was game. So we made a plan to do it.

Image            We went to the commuter rail station for a couple hours around 5:30 or 6am. There’s building, so we stood outside on the curb, out of the way of busy pedestrians scurrying up the stairs and across the bridgeway, over to the inbound tracks. It was cold, but we made the most of it.

            We didn’t shout. We didn’t share cautionary tells of hellfire and brimstone. We simply smiled and nodded at those who would acknowledge us, and we wished people a good day. A couple people came up and asked what we doing. We told them that because it was Ash Wednesday we were there to offer ashes to any busy commuters who might not be able to make it to church.

            I can’t remember how many people took us up on the offer. Some talked with us about our purposes but weren’t really interested. But those who were seemed so grateful. I also know that at our evening service that same day, we had a number of new visitors. (Of course, that could also be due to a photo of us in action being printed in a local, online news site.)

            When I later touched base with clergy elsewhere in the diocese, I heard similar, moving stories of people who were so grateful for clergy simply being present. Although it’s always dangerous to speak for other Episcopal clergy, I think they’d agree with me that regardless of how many pedestrians took part, we believe our presence was worth it…because it reminded ordinary people, busy people who might not brave the inside of a church (for whatever reason) very often, that the Church has not forgotten about them.

            Since Ashes to Go spread nationwide, numerous clergy have voiced their concerns or criticisms about it. I’ve read plenty of articles and blogs on both sides of the aisle.

            I’ve heard that ashes to go is repugnant, offering people some trendy equivalent of cheap grace. And, yet I would argue that all grace is cheap, as well as costly. It is cheap because, by it’s very nature, it is God’s gift to us, pure and simple. All we have to do is receive it. Yet, it is indeed costly as saving grace cost our beloved Savior his very life (one which he would take up again on the third day).

            I’ve heard people caution that it’s a slippery slope. What will crazy clergy be doing next? Offering Communion to go, anointing to go, absolution to go? Remember I’m a traditionalist. I know that this is comparing apples and oranges. Receiving ashes is not a Sacrament (of which, my reformed friends, there are 7), though perhaps there is some grace to be found there.

            I’ve heard people say that ashes are devoid of meaning apart from the Ash Wednesday liturgy, and yet I’ve stared into the eyes of those who benefited from Ashes to Go and I’ve seen the depth of understanding and profound meaning that has touched them to their very souls.

          There are any number of other criticisms against, and I won’t belie your ability to use Google.

          I don’t harbor any ill will to those who disagree with me on Ashes to Go. Some very good friends, whom I deeply respect, are opposed to it. I happen to believe that the Body of Christ is broad and diverse enough to allow all of us to serve side-by-side, in spite of this and other disagreements.

          I’m glad I took part in Ashes to Go. I know how busy people are. I know how even good intentioned people can find it immensely difficult to take part in church activities—especially midweek ones. And, let’s be honest here, most congregations don’t make it particularly easy for people, especially younger generations, to actively engage. (How many college students do you know who actively take part in something on a weekend morning?)

          I also know my context. I know that I live in the outer suburbs called Metrowest. I know that it takes roughly an hour to get into the downtown Boston on the train. I know that for those who work full days there, that means leaving around 6 or 7 and getting home around 7 or so. (–that’s if you catch your train, and if it’s running on time.)

          I know people can fall out of the habit of church and then feel odd trying to get back involved. What will other, more regular, attendees say? What questions will they ask?

          I also know people who have no doubt of God’s existence but have been deeply hurt by institutional religion.

          For all of these people, and so many more, I take part in Ashes to Go on the chance that even one person’s life can be touched by a gentle, loving reminder that the Church is still there for them and that God still loves them.

ImageImage(Special thanks to Helen Panas, Glenn Mongeon, and David Small for the photos.)

Rose Sunday

My Rose Vestments

My Rose Vestments

I guess I have colors on the mind lately. This past Sunday was Gaudete Sunday, one of the two “Rose Sundays” of the church’s year.  (The other is the fourth Sunday of Lent, called Laetare Sunday.)

You may have noticed that lonely pink candle in your (or your church’s) Advent wreath: that’s for Gaudete Sunday. I’m not a big fan of pink, but I am lucky in that I have a nice set of rose vestments that a woman in Indiana made for me. And, I wear them twice year, because I think the Rose Sundays are nice.

Gaudete Sunday takes its name from the opening line of the Introit in the old liturgies: Gaudete in Domino semper: iterum dico, gaudete! (“Rejoice in the Lord always: again, I say rejoice!” – Philippians 4:4ff.)

Advent is the minor penitential season of the Church. (The major penitential season is Lent.) It’s a time for us to prepare ourselves for Christmas and the coming of Christ by being introspective, examining our lives, clearing away the unhelpful parts (AKA “sins”), and making room for Christ.

Originally Advent was longer: It was 40 days of preparation just like Lent. In fact, some called it “St. Martin’s Lent” because it started the day after the feast of St. Martin (November 12) and there were fasting and abstinence requirements for the faithful to observe during it. Later it came to be shortened in the Western Church to the four weeks before Christmas, but in the Eastern Church it is still a longer season and there are still fasting obligations.

Still, even though it’s been truncated, Advent is a time of penitence, so the color is the same or similar to the color for Lent, but it’s not as strict as Lent. For instance, in Lent you never use the word “Alleluia” in the liturgy, but it’s permissible to do so in Advent; though you don’t sing the Gloria in either season. We still do a final blessing over the people at the end of the Advent liturgies, though traditionally we don’t in Lent, instead doing a solemn prayer for them.

In both seasons, at about the half-way point, we have a Rose Sunday. It’s sort of a “hump day” for the season, reminding us that we’re half-way there. We’re so close to the Light, so we lighten up a little. (And Indigo or Violet lightened up is rose, as any accident with bleach can remind you.) We’re a little more joyful. In some places, these Sundays are the only ones in the season when flowers can be on the altar. It’s a reminder to be hopeful and joyful.

Even with the newer lectionary and its omission of an Introit, the readings still remind us to be joyful. This year, Year A of the three-year lectionary cycle, we heard Isaiah prophesy that when the Lord returns, his people will “obtain joy and gladness” with “everlasting joy upon their heads” (see Isaiah 35:1-10).

I always welcome Rose Sunday, even if this one was a little cold and snowy, because I think we could all lighten up a little in the midst of weeks of soul searching.

On Liturgical Colors

ImageRecently several people have asked me about liturgical colors, specifically about St. Stephen Church’s use of the so-called “Sarum Blue” vestments and paraments during Advent. Why do we use blue for Advent? Why don’t we use purple like other churches? Is purple the Roman Catholic color, and blue the Anglican color?  

The use of liturgical colors has a long usage in the Christian tradition. The Western Church’s usage varies a bit from the Eastern Church’s choice of colors, and I’m thoroughly Western so I can only speak to that side of Christianity. (I’ll leave the explanation of Eastern Christianity’s church year and liturgical colors to my Eastern Orthodox brothers and sisters.)

Up until the Fourth Century of the Church, it seems that all the vestments used in worship were white in color, at least according to Pope Benedict XIV who wrote about such things in the 18th Century. After that other colors began to work their way into the church’s liturgical life.

It seems that during the medieval era the various fabrics and colors used varied depending on a community’s resources. In fact, the big holy days, like Easter and Christmas, the local cleric must just pull out whatever happened to be the nicest, fanciest vestment he had, regardless of what hue it was.

By the time of Pope Innocent III in the 13th Century, four main liturgical colors had come into use: white, red, green, and black. Although this too varied from region to region. In fact, until the Council of Trent, when things became more standardized, there were many variations in colors, liturgical texts, and prayers from region to region.

According to one liturgist, of whose knowledge and expertise I am well convinced, the liturgical colors of Sarum Blue and Violet really have their root in the color Black. In the later medieval period, it seems that Black was the color of choice for Advent and Lent, both being penitential seasons when people were called to introspection, repentance, and renewal.

Depending on where one lived and what local produce was used to create dyes, textile workers would use either a blue or a purple dye. Then they would dye the fabric more and more to get it as close to black as possible, but as the fabric got used and began to fade, it would begin to look more bluish or purplish, depending on what dye had been used initially.

So, to answer the question, is purple (or violet) more Roman Catholic and blue (or indigo) more Anglican? No; both were faded black vestments originally. It all depends on where you lived and what the textile industry near you had used to make your vestments.

As time passed, the liturgy and traditions became more complex and so did the liturgical color scheme. Still, color schemes varied significantly depending on where you lived.

In Rome, the color scheme came to be five principal colors (white, red, green, violet, and black) with a few exceptions.

  • White – used for Christmastide; Trinity Sunday; feasts of Our Lord (except those relating to his Passion);  feasts of the Blessed Virgin Mary, St. John the Evangelist, angels, virgins, confessors, and bishops (who weren’t martyrs); the feast of the Nativity of John the Baptist; All Saints Day; feast of St. Peter in Chains; the feast of the Conversion of St. Paul; Nuptial Masses; masses related to the Blessed Sacrament; Baptisms; etc.
  • Redused on Pentecost; for the procession of Palms on Palm Sunday (but not at the Mass that followed); feasts of the Passion of Christ; Holy Cross Day; feasts of apostles and martyrs; votive masses of the Holy Spirit; etc.
  • Green – was used on ordinary days between Epiphany and Septuagesima and between Pentecost and Advent where there were not other feasts being celebrated.
  • Violet (Purple) – the Sundays and weekdays of Advent and Lent; Holy Week; the Ember Days; and the Sacraments of Penance and Extreme Unction.
  • Black – used on Good Friday, All Soul’s Day, and Requiem Masses.

There were some variations even there:

  • Gold or Silver – could be used at Easter and Christmas in place of white.
  • Rosecould be used on Gaudete Sunday (Advent III) and Laetare Sunday (Lent IV)
  • Blue could be used on some feasts of the Blessed Virgin Mary in some regions, like Spain.

The usage in medieval England evolved slightly differently. It too varied depending on what part of realm one worshipped in, but generally Anglicans talk a lot about Sarum Usage, which is the practice of the medieval Diocese of Salisbury in southern England. (In Latin, “Sarum” refers to Salisbury.)

Many parishes could only afford to have two colors:

  1. Red or White or Golden for feast days
  2. Green or Blue or Brown or Gray – for non-feast days and penitential days

In the congregations with more means, a more elaborate color scheme was used:

  • Red – used on all Sundays of the year (except in Lent and Eastertide), and for the blessing of ashes on Ash Wednesday, Passiontide, and feasts of apostles, martyrs, and evangelists
  • Whiteall of Eastertide through Pentecost Sunday, feasts of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the feast of John the Evangelist, feast of St. Michael the Archangel, and for anniversary of the church’s dedication.
  • Green (but Brown, Grey, and Blue were substituted in places) – Non-feast days between Epiphany and Septuagesima and between Trinity and Advent
  • Yellow – feasts of confessors
  • Black  – requiem masses and offices of the dead
  • Lenten Array (unbleached linen embellished with black and oxblood red) –Advent and Lent until Passiontide (but in places Brown, Green, and Purple were substituted)
  • Indigo – in some places a deep blue was used specifically for Advent

Then the English Reformation occurs and the Church of England asserts its independence and autonomy  from the Roman Church. Under Henry VIII, almost nothing changed, and church life continued on as usual. From the inventories at the larger cathedrals during the reign of Edward VIII, it seems that vestments and colors also remained largely the following years.

As Puritans gained greater influence in England during the following century, many vestments  and liturgical colors, as well as candles on the altar and other ritual items, became suppressed–despite the fact that Parliament had made the “Ornament Rubrics” law, which stipulated that vestments should remain the same as they were during the reign of Edward VIII. (As mentioned above, historical records show that chasubles, copes, albs, etc. were still in use in his time.)

When the Church of England established congregations in the American colonies, they too followed this more Puritan pattern. Clergy often would vest only in cassock, surplice, and tippet (black preaching scarf), if vesting at all.

In fact in the high church diocese in which I was ordained, at one point liturgical colored vestments were forbidden, so clergy would dye faded out tippets in the proper liturgical colors. In this way, they would technically be following the norm for vesting, but their scarfs would have a tint of the liturgical color that should have been used. (Anglocatholics are often defiant in that sort of way.)

Since the liturgical renewal in the 20th Century, we have recovered from the great loss of the overly Puritan influence on the church, and vestments, liturgical colors, and even imposing ashes on Ash Wednesday have been restored.

Generally, the Episcopal Church (as well as the Church of England and other liturgical denominations) have followed the same general seasonal pattern as the rest of Western Church, i.e. as is used in the Roman churches:

  • Whitefor Christmastide, Eastertide, feasts of the Blessed Virgin and of Our Lord (though not feasts of his Passion), All Saints Day, feasts of angels and saints who were not martyrs, Maundy Thursday Eucharist, and at funerals (unless purple or black is used)

* Note 1: It’s generally acceptable to use silver or golden vestments on Easter and Christmas.
* Note 2: A small minority use light blue for some feasts of the Blessed Virgin.
* Note 3: Most Episcopal churches use white for funerals because the Christian funeral is essentially a celebration of Easter and the decedent’s now fuller participation in the Resurrection Life of Christ.

  • Redfeast of Pentecost, Palm Sunday, Holy Cross Day, feasts of Our Lord’s Passion, and feasts of martyrs and apostles, and Good Friday (unless black is used).

*Note 1: Ideally, there are two sets of red vestments:

Festal Red – bright red (often embellished with gold) used at Pentecost  (because of its similarity to the color of fire, as the Holy Spirit appeared in the form of tongues of fire at Pentecost)

Passion Red – deep oxblood red (often embellished with black) used in Passiontide (–red is used on Palm Sunday not to be celebratory but because it is the color of blood which our Lord shed)

  • Purple/Violetused in Advent and Lent, the two penitential seasons of the church; in some places at funerals; and on All Souls Day (unless black is used)

* Note 1: Some Episcopal and Anglican parishes use Deep Blue/Indigo (so called “Sarum Blue”) in Advent

* Note 2: Some Episcopal and Anglican parishes use the Lenten Array (unbleached linen embellished with deep red and black) rather than purple in Lent.

* Note 3: In some places, Rose is still used on the Third Sunday of Advent and Fourth Sunday of Lent.

  • Greenused in the season after Epiphany (between the feast of the Baptism of Our Lord and the Last Sunday of Epiphany) and in the season after Pentecost (between the feasts of Corpus Christi and Christ the King)

* Note: In the Church of England and in some Reformed tradition, a short “Kingdomtide Season” has been introduced just before Advent, and on those Sundays they recommend Red vestments.

So there is plenty of variation, both historically and today. And, as for the color of Advent, it seems plenty split in the Episcopal Church between Indigo and Violet, but clearly neither is more Anglican or more Roman than the other, as both are rooted in the historical attempt to create black vestments.

For one, I hate those who say that their color scheme is right and others are wrong because they’re recovering the “Sarum Use” – none of those people (that I know of) have ever brought back yellow vestments. If you’re going to appeal to this argument, you better be fully implementing the more elaborate Sarum color scheme.