Remember when traveling by air used to be as exciting as it was ceremonial? Most of us at Nashotah House don’t either, but there was a time when you would don a full suit and tie just to ride second class. Well, when it comes to the Daily Office, the Nashotah House seminarians would rather be over dressed than under dressed—and they kind of wish more folks would share the same motto.
The new class seems to agree. The sun seeps through the old oak trees and not an air conditioner can be found: yet nearly every one of ‘em can be found sauntering toward Evensong—prayer book ready and worship hungry—wearing an ankle-length, black (and not too breezy) cassock.
Tight hipster jeans and cool flannels are not exactly the going fashion at an Anglican seminary. Robes are all the rage.
These things come in two parts: 1) the cassock; 2) the surplice. The surplice is a loose white linen vestment. You won’t find one at your local J Crew. Beneath the surplice, is the cassock, a full-length garment of a single color worn by Christian clergy and acolytes. They’re usually from a shop like Almy, the REI Outfitters of Christian clergy.
Why sweat in an August afternoon when you could wear shorts and a Hawaiian T-shirt? Why dress up for worship? It’s because Nashotah House practices the Benedictine disciplines of work, study, and prayer, and part of this includes getting swept up in a story that’s bigger than ourselves. Through daily Morning Prayer, the Holy Eucharist, and Evensong, students can escape the noise of fashion and the endless distractions to worship, to lose themselves in the salvation stories God writes every day. And here at the House, practicing the Benedictine Rule begins with a dress code that is not exactly a la mode.
But no one seems to mind. In fact, we love our ebony cassocks and silly looking white robes. They remind us that this season of learning and service is not about us. It’s about the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and forsaking everything—even comfort, even vogue sensibilities—for the God of the Ages. It’s a baby step. But one in the right direction.