As many of you have noticed, I have quite an assortment of clergy stoles. I actually have 12! Many of you comment on them on Sunday morning and have asked about them, so I thought I would share about their meaning.
The clergy stole—that scarf of fabric draped over both shoulders and down to the shin area—is a sign of ordination. There are many stoles of other sizes; you will notice our choir wears shorter, smaller stoles. Some congregations offer “pulpit stoles” to anyone who is leading worship. Our Sunday morning lay chaplains will soon begin to wear a short blue stole to help you know who they are.
But the full-length stole is the vestment of ordained clergy. (The black robe, by the way, is the symbol of the academic degree.) This is why it is traditional to give the ordinand a stole at the time of ordination. The stole I received at my ordination was a gift of the congregation, and as such, it will always hold special significance for me.
As you’ve noticed, stoles can be beautiful works of fabric art. But the next time you find yourself thinking you wish you could have one, remember this: the stole itself signifies the “yoke” of service. Beautiful, yes, but also a testament to the commitment clergy make in answering our call.
I bought my first stole before I had completed all the requirements of ministerial preparation. It was on sale! How could I resist? I knew I wouldn’t wear it yet, but I told myself that if I never became a minister, I would give the stole away. Fortunately, that didn’t happen.
Once I had completed the requirements to become a minister and passed my panel interview, ordination became simply a matter of timing. I hoped to be ordained by the congregation that called me to serve as their settled minister, so I held off on planning an ordination ceremony.
But I became less rigid about waiting to wear a stole, especially as a worship leader. First time visitors on Sunday morning can be overwhelmed trying to figure out who’s who and what’s what, and wearing a stole is a clear sign of who the minister is. Once Chalice had voted to ordain me, I felt comfortable wearing a stole on Sunday mornings.
Until my own ordination though, I never wore a stole outside of leading worship services. (It is common for clergy to wear stoles at public justice events and when attending the ordination and installation ceremonies of colleagues.) I was delighted to wear my ordination stole to a colleague’s ordination event just a week after my own.
I have a few stoles I’ve received as gifts, but most of them I’ve bought for myself. Some I consider to be special occasion stoles. I have the perfect stole for April 1, 2018, the next time April Fools’ Day falls on a Sunday. I bought a celebratory rainbow stole just recently when the Supreme Court overturned the Defense of Marriage Act.
So there you have it. I don’t like to fuss too much about my clothing, but I do love both the beauty and the significance of my stoles.
Bright blessings, Sharon