Questions About Tradition

These are random but good questions from our table groups on Wednesday night worship class.

  1. When was confirmation started and do all churches recognize? This is a great question because confirmation in church history came out of the concern that infant baptism precludes the adult from making a personal decision to follow Jesus. Therefore, Confirmation is the time when a person makes a public profession of faith in the Triune God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Earlier in history, Confirmation was a rite of passage where the person being confirmed was anointed with oil (chrismation) and a special prayer was offered for the full release of all God’s gifts within the person. The traditions which have the Rite of Confirmation baptize infants. Many Protestant traditions do not have Confirmation per se because they baptize their youth at the age of accountability somewhere around the age of 13 or 14. There is more to this but enough for now.
  2. When are vestments required versus optional at Chapel Hill? At Chapel Hill, we have worn vestments (robes for clergy) for Christmas, Easter, and Confirmation Sunday. One of the changes in worship is to wear vestments every Sunday. I am aware that many come from traditions where vestments are not ever worn. Some believe that the wearing of vestments is a way of setting the clergy apart and even above the laity. I know that can be a perception and I know that some clergy use vestments to communicate that distinction. But, I want you to know why I have decided we need to wear vestments, in spite of the dangers. In the last five years, I have become quite disillusioned with the amount of feedback I get on what I am wearing. You may be surprised to hear that I get feedback on what I am wearing, the color scheme, why do you not wear a tie, or why do you wear a tie occasionally, whether my shirt should be tucked in or out and whether I would consider growing a goatee since certain preachers wear the culture uniform for clergy: shirt tucked out, jeans with holes, goatee, and the “cool” look. The purpose of vestments is not to separate the clergy from the laity as “above and beyond.” It is simply to communicate that I as a pastor am to get out of the way – to be hidden – especially in our clothing – so we can allow God to speak with the least amount of interference. The early church and beyond wore vestments to strongly say, “Don’t focus on the pastor! Focus on God!” As I will explain on Sunday morning, in history, everyone wore a white robe to worship. The difference was that the clergy wore stoles to indicate they were ordained and set apart for holy purposes. Not better, but different in roles.
  3. What is the symbolism of the stole which pastors wear? The stole is a symbol that the pastor is yoked to Christ which simply means we are dependent on Christ for the fulfilling of the “call.” Like oxen that are yoked together, the stole is a symbol of being yoked to Christ. The color changes based on the liturgical season which follows the life of Christ. Advent for example is blue because the church has designated blue as the color of hope and therefore, the candles, the stoles, the paraments (on cross and altar) are blue as well. Rev. Jennifer Herndon is an ordained deacon and therefore, her stole is worn sideways. This is true for any traditions who has clergy who serve as deacons. Many Protestant traditions have laity serve as deacons but not the United Methodist Church. Jim and I are ordained elders which means we wear the stole around the neck and hanging down to remind all of us, “Apart from Christ, you can do nothing!”

More questions next week….if you have your own questions, please send them to me at

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