The following sermon was preached on October 9, 2022 at St George’s Transcona. You can learn more about St George’s and find links to their YouTube channel by clicking here.


May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all our hearts be acceptable and pleasing in your sight O God for you are our rock and our redeemer. Amen.

It’s so fascinating to me how much thought goes into the design not only of a church building but of the worship space in particular. In a sense these sorts of buildings can be read, if you’ve been taught how to read them, and you can tell a lot about what is going on and what the community values by reading the space.

For example, this building tells us that we are a people shaped by stories, the stained glass that lines the sides of the church depict keys stories from the life of Christ, St Francis and this parish. The stained glass behind me also tells a story – the story of a parish that has not always been in this building and values its past.

There are also plaques and framed items on the walls, each with its own story to tell and additional decorations, like the rocks, Bibles and slingshot that remind us of the work recently done in this parish around the story of David and Goliath. We may be small, but we are mighty so woe to any Goliath who tries to get in our way.

Another way we can read what’s happening in this space is through colour. With some basic knowledge of the church calendar, you can walk into this space and know what season we are celebrating, based on the colour of the veils on the altar, the hanging on the lectern, and the colour of the stoles that the deacon and I are wearing.

If you’ve only been coming recently, you may think that green is our favourite colour because we’ve been decked out in green for a VERY long time but we’re about to shift into a time when you’ll see us in red, and blue, and white. Each colour symbolizing a different season in the church year.

Green is for ordinary time, the longest season of the church year. Blue for Advent. White for Christmas. Purple for Lent, and Red for Pentecost. Red and white can also be used at a service honouring a martyr – red – or a saint – white. White is also used for special services like baptisms, marriages, and funerals. And blue can be used in any space that honours Mary.

I don’t know why each colour was chosen for each season. Some seem kind of obvious – red to celebrate a saint who was a martyr and the flames of Pentecost but it’s not always that straightforward. We used to use purple for both Lent AND Advent because they are both considered penitential seasons, seasons to express regret and remorse for all the various ways we miss the mark, all the ways we sin.

Purple then represents ideas of sin, repentance, and judgment. During Advent we are looking towards Christ’s birth but also the fact that he will return a second time and when he comes the second time some of what he’ll be up to includes divine judgment.

During the weeks leading up to Advent you’ll see that we get a lot of wacky passages that give me a headache when I am trying to write sermons. Passages that are filled with ideas of judgment and repentance. Passages that have often been misused by the church. Advent marks the beginning of the liturgical year and begins roughly the last week of November to the first week of December depending on the year so that makes late October to early November the end of the liturgical year and the lectionary saves the toughest passages for that time period.

So purple was traditionally the colour for Advent but in the 70s and 80s people wanted to draw a greater distinction between Lent and Advent so they changed the colour of Advent to blue to reflect one of the most important Advent themes – waiting. The blue is meant to remind us of a “waiting night sky.” To think perhaps of the sky that the shepherds and the wise men would look up into and eventually see signs of Christ’s arrival.

So blue became the popular choice for Advent and you know who was particularly delighted? Companies that sell vestments – because now they had a whole new market opened up to them, churches in need of blue vestments!

But if you ever go to a church and see that they are using purple and not blue for Advent and you think to yourself, “Well they’ve got that wrong,” they haven’t. They are making a choice. A choice that tells you something about what they believe about Advent and you may prefer blue, but it’s not wrong to use purple.

It’s also, believe it or not, not wrong to use pink on some Sundays and white for Lent!

Rose or pink vestments can be worn on one Sunday in Advent and one in Lent, both towards the end of those seasons (Gaudete in Advent, and Laetare in Lent). They represent a moment of joy to remind us that the time of penitence and preparation is coming to a close and the feast we are anticipating will be here soon.

Lenten array is a style of vestment and church decoration made of unbleached linen, often embroidered with very simple symbols.

The simplicity of Lenten array reminds us that it’s a time to strip back, to simplify, to give something up.

And it’s OK to use Lenten array instead of purple, if that’s what your parish decides, because there are actually no official rules or canons about what colour is right for what season.

There is common accepted practice, but no actual rules.

So if Bishop Geoff wanted to, he could send us all a letter telling us that in October the liturgical colour is now pumpkin spice orange, and that would become true in this diocese.

Or 20, 30 years ago you and your priest could have decided to use yellow for every fifth Sunday and then over time that would become the right colour to use here.

And again, this would also delight those companies who sell vestments who may be scratching their heads at your choices, but would still be happy to figure out how to sell you something to help make it happen.

The fact that the church celebrates liturgical seasons is one of the most powerful and helpful gifts the tradition has to offer us. Not only do I find it helpful to literally move through the church seasons and to notice how the practice impacts my faith – to wait in Advent, to fast in Lent, to celebrate and feast for the full 12 days of Christmas – I have come to find embracing the concept of unique seasons with unique practices has had a serious impact on my life in general.
It can be helpful when things are particularly difficult to remind myself that this is a season – it hasn’t always been like this, and it won’t always be like this. Or when something particularly lovely has happened to remind myself that good things should be celebrated and to take the time to do so.

Another thing you can read in this space are our clothes. People who come to this parish on Sundays wear a wide range of types of clothing – from jeans to some of the fanciest suits and headpieces I have ever seen. What I hope that tells you is that this is a space where you can come exactly as you are. That you are free to be yourself here.

Then there are some people who will be wearing those types of street clothes, but with a white robe over top, sometimes with a rope for a belt, sometimes not. These people will be helping with some sort of leadership role in the service. But there will also be people providing leadership in the service who aren’t wearing a robe like that – more on this later.

You’ll also normally see a few people – Dan, myself, and, God willing, Beverly before too long, in a black shirt with a white collar before and after the service, and then in several additional layers of clothing once the service starts.

I’ve had lots of conversations with people about this clothing over the years and one way that people tend to read this clothing is that it signifies that the people in the collars and the robes are the fanciest, more important people in the room and the person in the fanciest robes – which is usually me – must be the fanciest of the fancy people.

Spoiler alert: We’re not. And our clothes are supposed to tell you we’re not. They’re actually supposed to tell you that we are the least fancy people here. They’re also supposed to tell you that we have a particular role to play in this gathering and to help you to easily identify us.

We’re not the most important people in the room, but it’s understandable why you might think that given our distinctive dress. Vestments are an example of a symbol whose meaning has shifted over time.

Clothing used to be a fixed symbol that clearly communicated who a person was and how they fit into society – their gender, occupation, and economic status were all indicated by their clothing. At many points in history, there have been laws dictating what a person could and could not wear. Unisex clothing wasn’t really a thing. Dressing down wasn’t really a thing. Men wore certain things and women wore other things.

Certain fabrics and colours could only be worn by people of particular economic classes. Different jobs had different uniforms.

You could tell what kind of job a person had or how wealthy they were by what they wore. In modern times, that’s harder to tell. Are those $10 jeans from Superstore or did you pay an extra couple of hundred dollars to have them professionally ripped at the knee by a designer? Who can say?

The lines about what a person’s clothing can tell you about them have become fuzzier with time. However, one clear constant is that men can consistently expect that they will be able to buy pants with pockets. Women, not so much.

Vestments are a type of clothing that is modelled on the clothing of Roman servants. So the clothing that now can seem like the fanciest in the room, was once the most basic in the room signifying that a priest is a servant of the people.

This black thing I’m wearing is called as cassock and it used to be everyday wear for a priest. Every day you’d get up and get dressed and put on your collared shirt and before you stepped out the door you’d button up your cassock – whether you were heading to church or just to do some shopping.

Now there are some variations on how cassocks are designed, but if I was going to wear mine every single day, I’d have to allot enough time to make sure all 39 buttons were buttoned up before I left the house. 1 button for each of the 39 Articles of Religion – the document that at one time in our history, outlined the basic tenants of what it meant to be an Anglican.

Or maybe I’d just buy one with fewer buttons, they do exist!

So even though I don’t wear my cassock everyday, I could, but there would always be a few extra layers I would put if we were having a service.

This white thing I’m wearing is called a surplice. It’s not everyday wear. I only wear it when we have a service. White clothing has a long history of symbolizing baptism and Christ’s goodness and my surplice is a reminder of that.

The white robe that servers and lay readers sometimes wear in our services is called an Alb and it is white for the same reason my surplice is, to remind us of our baptism, and to remind us that our service in the church is a reflection of our baptismal vows. In all the variations of liturgical dress there is always a white garment to symbolize baptism.

The last thing I put on before worship is this fancy scarf thing, called a stole. The stole itself signifies that I’m an ordained person. You can tell that I am a priest because I wear it around my neck. A deacon also wears a stole, but it is draped over their left shoulder.

The way a deacon wears a stole is meant to copy the clothing of a servant who would wear a stole like that and use the loose ends at their hip to dry your feet after they washed them.

See, it’s not supposed to be fancy, it’s for washing feet!

I wear the stole around my neck. It’s meant to remind us of the yoke that a team of oxen would wear. Or in this case, the yoke of Christ, the yoke of service. It may look fancy, but it’s meant to be a symbol of humility.

But over the years vestments have also become a way to reflect a love of beauty in the church and they have become beautiful which is great because beauty is a wonderful thing, but also not so great because people – including the people who wear this clothing – can sometimes forget it is the clothing of a servant, not a dictator.

There are lots of other garments that Anglicans wear – from choir robes to the Bishop’s fancy hat – but generally at St George’s we like to keep things simple.

Which includes saying it’s OK if you want to serve but you don’t want to wear an alb. Wear what makes you comfortable. Wear what fits!

When I first started wearing vestments I had second hand ones that didn’t fit me properly. I had to pick them up so I didn’t trip on them when I walked up stairs and my hands disappeared when I held that at my sides because the sleeves were so long. People said I looked uncomfortable and some people assumed I was uncomfortable leading the liturgy but that wasn’t it, the clothes didn’t fit me. Once I had clothing that fit, I felt a lot better.

We have albs and if you wanted to you could buy your own and make it fit you, but if we don’t have something that makes you feel comfortable, don’t’ wear it. Vestments have symbolic and historical meaning, but they also should not get in the way of the work we are gathered to do together.

So symbolism and historic meaning aside, personally I love being able to wear vestments because of how I feel in them. When I put these clothes on I’m reminded of the job I am here to do. They help focus and center me. I am much less distracted in vestments.

I have spent over 20 years standing in front of congregations like this talking to groups of people but a lot of that time was spent in churches that didn’t use vestments. Once I began to wear vestments I discovered that I could focus solely on my job and NOT on my clothes. I’m not wondering if you think my skirt is too short or panicking that I wore the wrong shirt and now I have to keep my hands down at my side because if I raise them too high you’ll see some skin. Or that at coffee time you’ll spend more time talking to me about my outfit than my sermon. I don’t have to worry about where to put a mic pack.

Because my cassock has pockets!

Thanks be to God. In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen.