After I get my hands on a black academic gown, I’d like to wear it on a preaching Sunday just to be a rebel. A secret: I think black is kind of cool. Recently, I just purchased a Roman-style “doggy” clerical collar but I’m not wearing it because it’s so difficult to attach. It looks very Anglican but many Lutherans are starting to wear the doggy collar these days. Some mainline clergy claim that the collar helps us get entry into places where we ordinarily would not be able to get in. It automaticaly sets us apart from the laity who wear normal street clothing. When I enter hospitals and carehomes, it does enable easier entry because we are automatically recognized. But sometimes, I just walk in with a regular shirt. Maybe that’s how I should go on Sunday mornings too? Maybe I’ll be a rebel.
Personally, I don’t care for fancy stoles or embroidered albs. For me, the plainer, the better. Personally, if I had a choice, I’d prefer to wear the black academic gown that Luther and Calvin wore during the time of the Reformation. For me, the black academic gown distinctly communicates a return to the roots of the Reformation. I’m a person whose is rooted in the Reformation tradition rather the liturgical tradition so naturally I prefer the black. The black gown is still the norm for most mainline Presbyterians; and it was also the norm for Lutheran pastors. I wonder if Lutherans will ever go back to the traditional black of academia?
Historically, on October 9, 1524, Martin Luther introduced the use of the black academic gown for preaching in order to replace the monk’s robe. It was meant to get away from the Romish image. Calvin did the same in Geneva too, hence, the name “Geneva gown”. I don’t think many Presbyterians and Lutheran in the free or brethren denominations are into the gown and vestment thing. Presbyterian Church (USA) pastors are into the black Geneva gowns, and some, I hear, have started to switch over to the white albs. The white alb became increasingly popular in mainline protestant circles after Vatican II. Protestant churches were reverting to the liturgical roots of the early church so it was a fashion trend of the second half of the 20th century. Many of our Lutheran pastors started copying the Catholic and Anglican/Episcopalian brethren in wearing the long white robe/alb. Today, most Lutheran pastors are donning the white albs, but this was not the case 150 years ago.