Stole envy

stoleThe word stole wasn’t part of my growing up vocabulary. In fact, it wasn’t until I was a hospital chaplain that I gave much thought to the different liturgical vestments worn by church leaders of different denominations. Little did I know that in many denominations, there are whole seminary classes devoted to teaching clergy how to dress liturgically.

At Anabaptist Mennonite Biblical Seminary, where I went to seminary, we talked about what the preacher should and should not wear, but that  only took about 30 minutes during one class period.

During my hospital chaplain stint, my Presbyterian colleagues essentially dared me to wear either a collar or a stole for a day. Just one day. They wondered if I would feel differently about my role or if I would be treated differently by others. I thought it was a good idea, but I could never bring myself to try it, which I regret. After all, without these identifying markers, most people thought I was a medical technician, despite my eggplant colored clergy lab coat.

I know Mennonite leaders haven’t always been keen on sporting stoles, collars, robes, etc. This goes way back and there are many (some good) reasons for this. And yet here I am, a Mennonite pastor who feels some degree of stole envy. I still can’t bring myself to wear a stole in public on a regular basis, but I’m glad I have one. It is especially significant because the one stole I own was given to me by Patty Shelly, an inspiring Bible professor, song writer, musician, mentor, guide and pun master. She gifted me with this stole during my ordination service in 2009. Here is what she said on that occasion:

“Mennonites don’t really use pastoral stoles, like some denominations, but my word of blessing is this stole I brought from Jerusalem.  It was cross-stitched by Palestinian village women south of Jerusalem.  For me it is a symbol of the mantle of ministry you take on today in a new way. In I and  II Kings, when Elijah hears the still, small voice of God on the mountain, he wraps his mantle about himself and goes out to stand before the Lord  Later on when Elijah is taken into heaven, Elisha picks up Elijah’s mantle and begins his own prophetic ministry.  So the mantle of ministry is passed on.  May this pastoral stole be a reminder to you of the affirmations and blessing of this day from all of us.  When your strength ebbs, the path ahead seems confusing, may you wrap yourself in this mantle as a sign of God’s presence–think of it as the ‘stole’, small voice (–yes, I said that!)–and the confirmation of God’s people of your call to ministry.”

I’m honored that Patty will be speaking at my installation service or (in-stole-ation as Patty put it) at Rainbow on September 29.

Come by the church office for a close up view of the stole. And don’t be alarmed if  and when I wear it 🙂

New Clergy Cnference Participants

Look at these stoles! Aren’t they beautiful? During the summer of 2012 I was an Interfaith New Clergy Fellow at Chautauqua Institute in New York. That experience further fueled by stole envy.

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