There has been a discussion on a Mailing List That Shall Not Be Named about clericals and vestments. It is one of those confidential lists that I like to write on, but really want to recycle to material for the blog -- so I'll pull my own words and anonymize the rest. (More about that later.)

I was looking for photographs to demonstrate what I mean. And then I found -- and explored -- a site I've run into a few times over the last few years. is within two weeks as old (that is, nine and a half years) as my original "Evangelical Universalist" effort, but this makes me feel like a slacker.

The eponymous Ken Collins is a Disciples minister in the Virginia suburbs, and a Wesley grad. Who knew?

But I really, really like his illustrated glossary of clericals and vestments.

And his "prayer builder" application -- where a service can be generated by clicking a few boxes and a few fill-in boxes. Note to self: figure out what application he used and build something with Universalist liturgy, integrating psalms.

But there is so much to love here. Essays galore, but if you have to start somewhere, check the reference sections and subordinate links.

More on Weddings

Philocrites writes about an article describing more personalized, non-traditional, and ultimately secular wedding (and other) services. These have been the bread and butter of a good number of Unitarian Universalist ministers, who have been specializing in "custom services" from the days of the Nehru jacket. And sometimes unconsciously with as much bad taste.

I used to think, perhaps as many of my colleagues still think, that the rationale for taking a fee at a wedding was the value added by such a "customization". Now, I'm sure that's not true. Weddings are big business, and at least in Washington, people who want to throw a decent, tasteful wedding don't balk at a specialist's fee -- for recommendations and standards. They're paying for wisdom, not flash. And those who want flash I don't accept for the task.

That's why I have a set service -- unlike the old days where I crafted something for each and every couple -- that makes certain allowances if either person getting married isn't Christian. It really is a winner, and quite traditional. It has the frame of a wedding, and not a party. (And, never, never, never a unity candle. Indeed, I've noted recently a bit of unity-candle backlash. Perhaps too many couples catching fire on America's Funniest Video.)

Yet, I can't help but wonder if the lure of odd ceremonies isn't due to their omnipresence in film and television, and so can't blame people for asking about them. These seem to be the same cultural educators for the grand princess wedding, when this was all but unknown outside of "society" circles three or four generations ago. (My former parsonage-apartment was the scene of many a wedding.)

Couples come to clergy who aren't their pastor -- and increasingly to paid wedding coordinators -- precisely because they don't know what's right.

Better to lead these couples to a tasteful, dignified wedding service, free of drama and embarrassing self-deceptions than to indulge them. They're thankful, and I'm spared the egos of those who would make their wedding day a living hell for the people they say they love.

The Reagan funeral

I have mildly negative feelings about the Reagan presidency, and in contrast to the current administration, they get milder all the time. Following my mother's "if you don't have anything nice" dictum, I'll stick to the funeral service, which was gently touching.

I wouldn't have been my choice, but it isn't my funeral! (Didn't the pallbearers move fast?)

Well, in case you missed it and want to analyze it (or need to dupliate it for a family member or pariishoner) the Episcopal Cathedral (I can't bear its self-described "national" status) has the order of the service online for download.

The Service

Do note this baptism rite

Getting some more Universalist content online, and focusing on Universalist attitiudes towards baptism. My lastest addition includes two baptism rites with prayers. They aren't fabulous, indeed the language is a bit overwrought. Still, someone might like them.

See Remarks upon Baptism, with a Form for its Administration. from The Universalist Manual, or Book of Prayers and other Religious Exercises by Menzies Rayner.

Liturgical options when same sex marriage arrives

I've heard that a colleague in Massachusetts has wondered what kind of ceremony is proper (or indeed, necessary) for a couple married in that church, but outside the benefit of law, once marriage licences are issued same-sex couples.

Golly: I wish I had that problem, but even though I don't, might I offer an opinion?

There needs to be a ceremony, however simple, so that the couple may contract marriage in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. Until May 17, no same-sex couple, however devoted or ommitted, has had the opportunity to contract marage this way, and so in a real sense any prior service was different.

So what kind of service? The closest parallel we have is the blessing of a civil marriage, which is the same action in reverse. To review: the couple would have been married by law, and come to the church as married couple. The minister has the sole role of ecclesiastic agent: to bless, to lead prayers, and often times to lead the couple to exchange rings.

With the coming wave of previously-blessed same-sex marriages the minister serves as an agent of the court. (Indeed, from the couple's point of view, there's no particular reasons to return to church. The court clerk could officiate, but who are we kidding? You go to church to get married, right? Don't bother correcting me in the comments.)

This suggests the service should be as business-like: perhaps in the pastor's office, church parlor, or alternately, drawing from custom and if it was convenient, in the couple's home or the pastor's home
(really) with the following outline.

  • "Dearly beloved, on September 30, 1770, James Murray and Ted Potter vowed before their friends and a congregation of the First Church in Thule to be of one spirt and one flesh, to have and to hold one another from that day foward, and and meet today to be wed under the law of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. . . . " In short, make public an account of what the couple has previously done, and I'd be sure to quote the actual vows they made.
  • Ask each member of the couple if he or she consents to be married to the other under the law of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. Sure this is a conditional statement, but since it was a condition that didn't hitherto exist, it seems right. On reflection, I might phrase this to say "extend your marriage under the law . . . " Again, I wish I was in a position to have to wrestle with this!
  • Then, a simple, mutual "I take you [name] as my [husband or wife]" leaving out all the other conditions, seeing as they were vowed at the first service.
  • The minister declares them married.
  • Optionally, a prayer of thanksgiving, a blessing or both ends the

Married, Universalist style

When I commented at my "Wedding
in the Universalist Tradition" site [link down: 21 April 2005] that the 1839 Menzies Rayner service has "little to commend itself for use today" I was clearly mistaken. Ths evening, I will officiate the marriage of two church members with an abridgement of this rite, which you can read here.
The couple really liked the service, in part, I'm sure because it leaves open a ring ceremony at the solemnization service I'll lead overseas. Feel free to use it if you like it. Perhaps I can even get a photo online later. (Send yours, too, if you use the service!)

The right hand of fellowship

This afternoon, after worship is over, I'll head to the airport and fly to Providence. From there, a car to suburban Boston, to the
First Parish Church in Weston where my friend
Peter Boullata will be ordained to the Christian ministry. I'll offer him the right hand of fellowship.

I've seen people try to get clever with the right hand of fellowship, and it never
seems to work. The reference is to Galatians 2:9. Here it is, with the verse following:

And when James and Cephas and John, who were acknowledged pillars, recognized the grace that had been given to me, they gave to Barnabas and me the right hand of fellowship, agreeing that we should go to the Gentiles and they to the circumcised.
They asked only one thing, that we remember the poor, which was actually what I was eager to do.


Certain themes are clear: commission, affirmation, unity. These are appropriate for someone
entering ordained life, of course. The act reminds us of the different labors that
ordained ministers might find in their vocations. It also reminds us that none of us is commissioned
to save the world, but that we can and must share the task.

But recall, too, that it is -- or at least, is ours by right -- our practice to welcome
new members, the overwhelming number of whom are not ordained, by the right hand of fellowship. And with
it, more than a handshake, they too receive a commission, affirmation, and a sign of unity.
And a share of the mission.