From The Rector

Bemerton Parish Reflections - October 2010

Rev'd Simon Woodley writes:

Advertising the Church

Dressing down - or up?


I’ve decided to wear my dog-collar a bit more. Those who know me recognise that I’m more of a jeans and t-shirt person, and I’m the kind of person who, if they worked in an office, would be taking off their tie in the lift (if not while waiting for it). I’m keen for people to see me as human being first, rather than some authority figure. The collar brings a lot of baggage for people, they treat you differently and become afraid to be themselves. So generally, I only wear one for official type functions. Or I used to. I’ve decided to advertise the Church a bit more, to remind people that some vicars are under 60 (apologies to my colleagues who are over, I look forward to joining you when it's appropriate). As well as wearing it more, I’m also going to try stop calling it by such a derogatory nick-name!

'The Collar'

The collar has an interesting history, not vestments for worship, these have changed much and often with the fashions, but clerical clothes. As far as I can tell they were brought in in the 12th century. They were not intended to show the clergy as better or special than laity, but actually so they would be more obvious in the public place, and therefore clerics might temper their behaviour (think Canterbury Tales!). After the break from Rome under Henry VIII, the new Church of England did not like such “popish” garb and under Cromwell’s Puritans there would have been no regular clerical dress.

Preaching Bands - Charles Wesley!



And what of holy Mr Herbert? Well my research says that the clerical collar became common in the 18th Century - the fashion for collars with studs, which were then turned round by high church people wanting to make a point about turning your back on the world. Yet we know from 'The Collar', that this was a part of the “uniform” of Herbert and presumably others. Was it the preaching bands that he is seen wearing in the familiar portraits? If anyone can enlighten me I’d be very glad.

'The Parson in Journey'

Ahh, to go on holiday! Not something Mr Herbert would have known me thinks. A fantastically refreshing trip to the far tip of Cornwall, and I wonder - was this further than he ever went? I’m sure he could not have made the trip in the few hours it took us, but then we were accompanied by several thousand others, thanks to those hot tin boxes charging along on the black smudge through the countryside. I once criticised a motorway to a friend, saying that it had spoiled a previously beautiful valley. He replied that it was only because of the road that we and so many others could appreciate it. On the whole I disagree, ends rarely justify the means in good ethics. How you get there matters. St.Michael’s Mount being a case in point. How brilliant to have your visitors controlled by the tides! Sometimes we had to go by boat, sometimes by land, and sometimes with just wet feet! As Rector of another St.Michael’s I tried to get a discount but couldn’t! I was amazed there has been worship on the island since 600AD. These Cornish Christians were a bit ahead of us. Even Salisbury’s previous Cathedral wasn’t built then!

The Other St. Michael's



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Simon Woodley (