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How should clergy dress outside of liturgical functions?


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#1 Darlene Griffith

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Posted 07 June 2011 - 03:22 PM

Recently, while conversing with a Greek friend, the topic of priests' attire was addressed. I was curious as to when a priest should wear a cassock, and/or clothing that distinguishes him from others and identifies him as what he is: a priest. Specifically this is in reference to affairs outside of liturgical functions (Divine Liturgies, Vespers, funerals, etc.). So is there a rule of what is considered proper attire for priests? Do jurisdictions differ on what is considered acceptable/proper? Is there clothing that would never be acceptable for a priest to wear, such as shorts, spandex, etc.?

The reason I am inquiring in the first place is that I have wondered about this for a while and the recent conversation with my Greek friend raised more questions. Should priests, by the very nature of their vocation, dress as priests at all functions, even those functions that are not liturgical in nature, i.e. parish picnics, working in the parish office, visiting parishioners in the hospital, having Bible studies in the parish hall, visiting parishioners in their homes, making pierogies, attending festivals (such as Greek festivals), etc.? I'm sure there are many more functions that I've excluded, but I think the gist of what I'm asking is clear. Again, the question is not so much regarding what particular kind of priestly clothing would/should be worn (since I would think customs vary within different jurisdictions), but rather, should the priest outwardly distinguish himself from the non-clergy when not at liturgical functions? Also, has the custom of the priest dressing differently from non-clergy outside of liturgical functions been understood differently in the past than it is today, and is it understood differently in countries typically considered Orthodox as opposed to those countries that are not considered such?

Also, do monks, bishops, archbishops, and metropolitans have a standarized dress code to which they must adhere outside of liturgical functions? Do the canons address this subject and if so, should they be followed? Again I am aware that the canons address many issues, yet in many and various situations are no longer maintained (obeyed).

I realize that often I am informed that there is no right and only way of doing things within Orthodoxy. Still, if Orthodoxy is to hold true to its name = right believing, then it necessarily follows that there must be a right way (and thereby a wrong way) to practice our faith. I especially look forward to hearing what the participating clergy on Monachos have to say.

Edited by Darlene Griffith, 07 June 2011 - 03:43 PM.


#2 Herman Blaydoe

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Posted 07 June 2011 - 04:01 PM

This is not a binary on/off sort of thing. There can be more than one "right" way, depending on many different things. And in fact, different jurisdictions have different policies (after all this is Orthodoxy, not some organized religion).

I understand that the Antiochian Archdiocese prefers its priests to wear "western" style clerical garb, that is black shirt/jacket with the white "dog-collar". Many Greek clerics I have seen seem to dress this way as well but I am not familiar with official GOAA policy. I'll let our clerical members expand on specific policies they are aware of and simply leave it at that.

Herman the non-clerical Pooh

#3 Father David Moser

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Posted 07 June 2011 - 04:24 PM

The most traditional answer to the question is that a priest should dress as a priest at all times. This statement, however, really tells us nothing. What does it mean to "dress as a priest"? Does dressing as a priest mean that one wears the cassock/rasson (podriasnik) and exorassa (riassa) or does it mean wearing a clergy shirt and collar tab, or does it mean something else? For those of us who are priests, we live in obedience to our hierarch and thus proper clerical attire is defined by our bishop. My bishop defines proper clerical attire as podriasnik, riassa and cross at all times - except in private or when it is not practical. Examples - when sitting at home with my family, I usually wear jeans and a shirt or when engaged in physical labor such as building or digging, I wear overalls and boots. Now my dear friends down the street, the GOA and AOA clergy have a different obedience. They are less likely to wear the cassock than I, but while I never wear a "clergy shirt and collar" they do much more often. Another "exception" is when one, of necessity, works in a secular workplace. It would not do for me to wear my cassock to work at McDonalds (I don't work at McDonalds or at any job other than the Church, btw).

If there is an overall standard for a priest, or any clergyman, it is to dress simply, modestly and in accordance with the instructions of the bishop. My bishop, and in fact the whole hiearchy of the Church administration of which he is a part (that is the Russian Church), tends to be heavily on the "traditionalist" side in this matter, requiring that "normal" clergy attire is podriasnik and riassa - with exceptions as noted. Other bishops and Church administrations might be less "traditionalist" and define normal clergy attire differently. But the priest should live according to the instructions of his rightful authority.

Fr David

#4 Fr Raphael Vereshack

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Posted 07 June 2011 - 05:03 PM

Outside of liturgical functions but for pastoral care (eg hospital visits, talks to religious groups, etc) in some jurisdictions it is the basic rule to wear a ryassa and cross (remember that in the Byzantine tradition many priests do not have crosses); while in other jurisdictions it is more likely that the priest will wear a clerical shirt and collar, let's say when working in his church office. This varies also among individual priests as younger priests nowadays will tend more towards the full beard and ryassa look. In this way things are more 'traditional' than they used to be, although tradition itself has changed on this score since photos of Archbishop (St) Tikhon exist of him wearing a bowler hat and overcoat once he arrived in America about a century ago.

As for how the priest would dress outside of liturgical or pastoral roles- Here I have seen clergy of all jurisdictions dressed in lay clothes when in the midst of civil society or at home.

In Christ-
Fr Raphael

#5 Michael Albert

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Posted 07 June 2011 - 07:09 PM

Obviously, Fr David and Fr Raphael have given the proper response. I enjoy seeing an Orthodox priest in a cassock. For me, it identifies and distinguishes him from the Latin Catholics and Anglicans (and others who might wear the clerical shirt and collar). I must admit, I was very disturbed to discover that Metroplitan Philip (Antiochian) does not permit the cassock outside of Liturgical settings.

But of course my opinion is worth nothing.

#6 Darlene Griffith

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Posted 07 June 2011 - 07:10 PM

Outside of liturgical functions but for pastoral care (eg hospital visits, talks to religious groups, etc) in some jurisdictions it is the basic rule to wear a ryassa and cross (remember that in the Byzantine tradition many priests do not have crosses); while in other jurisdictions it is more likely that the priest will wear a clerical shirt and collar, let's say when working in his church office. This varies also among individual priests as younger priests nowadays will tend more towards the full beard and ryassa look. In this way things are more 'traditional' than they used to be, although tradition itself has changed on this score since photos of Archbishop (St) Tikhon exist of him wearing a bowler hat and overcoat once he arrived in America about a century ago.



Father, what is a bowler hat? Do you mean to say here that Archbishop (St) Tikhon wore street(lay) clothes instead of clerical garb when not performing liturgical/clerical functions?

As for how the priest would dress outside of liturgical or pastoral roles- Here I have seen clergy of all jurisdictions dressed in lay clothes when in the midst of civil society or at home.



Ok, now we are getting down to the nitty-gritty. While I understand what constitutes "liturgical roles", what would constitute "pastoral roles?" Are pastoral roles those things that involve the parishioners? Or would pastoral roles be defined more as those roles in which the priest is ministering and using his gifts that he is given in ordination, such as teaching, pastoring, counseling, etc. Let me give some examples and then I would like to get your opinion (and others) on the matter. In the following roles/functions would it be advisable/beneficial/acceptable/proper for priests to dress in some kind of clerical garb to distinguish themselves as priests?

1. At parish picnics
2. Working in the parish office
3. Visiting parishioners in their homes (not a house blessing)
4. Going with parishioners to places of amusement/entertainment such as baseball games, concerts, amusement parks, movies
5. Eating out at restaurants with members of the parish
6. Fund raisers conducted on the church property, such as yard sales, festivals, or any other kind of function to raise money
7. Church tours open to the public
8. Bible studies/studies on the Orthodox faith conducted on the church property
9. Counseling (not confession) with parishioners on church property (either in the church or parish hall)
10. Attending weddings, funerals at other Orthodox parishes but not the priest conducting the service
11. Attending weddings, funerals at non-Orthodox churches

In addition, couldn't some pastoral roles require the priest to be in the "midst of civil society?" For example, when visiting a parishioner in the hospital, the priest would be performing a pastoral role in the midst of civil society. So, in this case, would he wear clerical garb or lay clothes? Or doesn't it really matter?

I'm inquisitive and interested in this subject having come from an Evangelical Protestant background where pastors preferred not to distinguish themselves by their clothing, whether in a pastoral setting or any other setting for that matter. The Protestant teaching on the priesthood of all believers being central, many Protestant pastors (specifically Evangelical) want to convey the message to their congregation: "Hey, I'm just like one of you. We're all priests and we all have the calling to minister." So, the idea of a pastor dressing differently than the rest of the congregation (the term laity was strongly frowned upon) was regarded negatively and as unnecessary, and often offensive and unscriptural. This trend has become more and more popular in Evangelical circles so that many pastors are now preferring to dress down in jeans and T-shirts, or hawaiian shirts and shorts, veering away from the more conservative suit.

#7 Darlene Griffith

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Posted 07 June 2011 - 07:27 PM

Obviously, Fr David and Fr Raphael have given the proper response. I enjoy seeing an Orthodox priest in a cassock. For me, it identifies and distinguishes him from the Latin Catholics and Anglicans (and others who might wear the clerical shirt and collar). I must admit, I was very disturbed to discover that Metroplitan Philip (Antiochian) does not permit the cassock outside of Liturgical settings.

But of course my opinion is worth nothing.



However, Michael, it is better to have some kind of identification that distinguishes the priest rather than none at all. Wouldn't you agree?

#8 Father David Moser

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Posted 07 June 2011 - 07:27 PM

In the following roles/functions would it be advisable/beneficial/acceptable/proper for priests to dress in some kind of clerical garb to distinguish themselves as priests?

1. At parish picnics
2. Working in the parish office
3. Visiting parishioners in their homes
...


I would, have and do wear clerical attire in all of the mentioned situations. I have worn my podriasnik to the beach, hiking, to the grocery store, to (public) school events (like concerts and programs for parents), to the ballet, to the symphony, to soccer games, fishing you name it. Any time I am or can be recognized as a priest, I dress like one.

You know, I live in a neighborhood that has a subsidized apartment complex in it and my house and Church are between the apartments (where a lot of new refugees/immigrants live) and the "Islamic Center" (Mosque). The people that I see daily dress in caftans, saris burqas, headscarves, outlandish colors and prints, whatever. They have no qualms about dressing as who they are - so why should I.

Protestants have lost even the concept of the priesthoood. You might get some inkling of it when talking to a conservative Lutheran about their clergy or Presbyterian about their elders - but for the most part it is lost. But is this surprising? They have abandoned the sacraments as well and have lost the whole theology of the Church. Protestant pastors are not a model for Orthodox clergy in many things -particularly in their idea of the role and place of the priest in the Church, in his flock and in society at large.

Fr David

#9 Michael Albert

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Posted 07 June 2011 - 07:51 PM

However, Michael, it is better to have some kind of identification that distinguishes the priest rather than none at all. Wouldn't you agree?

Yes. And if I was an Orthodox priest, I would want to be identified as an Orthodox priest, (with traditional cassock), ---not a Roman Catholic or protestant.

#10 Fr Raphael Vereshack

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Posted 07 June 2011 - 09:32 PM

Darlene Griffith wrote:

Father, what is a bowler hat? Do you mean to say here that Archbishop (St) Tikhon wore street(lay) clothes instead of clerical garb when not performing liturgical/clerical functions?


It's a kind of hat that was very popular in the late 19th- early 20thc in N America. Whether he was wearing a ryassa underneath the overcoat I no longer remember. What I do recall is that the overall look when 'out in society' was of a typical properly or presentably dressed man of that period. In other words quite different from how he would have likely appeared in public in Russia- ryassa only and panagia. I'm not sure but it could be that he had in mind Anglican clergy as rôle models for how to appear in public.

I'll answer the following in terms of what I do (note that in our jurisdiction 'clerical garb' as a minimum means ryassa & cross):

1. At parish picnics- yes, always
2. Working in the parish office- yes, always
3. Visiting parishioners in their homes (not a house blessing)- yes, always
4. Going with parishioners to places of amusement/entertainment such as baseball games, concerts, amusement parks, movies- it depends; some settings are actually spiritually painful to wear a robe; eg I once was invited to a parishioner's dacha but then I was taken to the beach (painful, very painful)
5. Eating out at restaurants with members of the parish- most times
6. Fund raisers conducted on the church property, such as yard sales, festivals, or any other kind of function to raise money- yes, always
7. Church tours open to the public- yes, always
8. Bible studies/studies on the Orthodox faith conducted on the church property- yes, always
9. Counseling (not confession) with parishioners on church property (either in the church or parish hall)- yes, always
10. Attending weddings, funerals at other Orthodox parishes but not the priest conducting the service- yes, always
11. Attending weddings, funerals at non-Orthodox churches- most always

Note that the above is a combination as it often is for priests, of what clergy have previously done in that parish and in that diocese. A monk priest for example in a purely monastic setting will do one thing and which is proper and obedient, but then make certain adjustments for pastoral reasons (for his people's and his own) if in a parish. For example what I try to follow in this parish in terms of dress, and overall rule, is very similar to what every monk priest before me has done here in our parish. In doing this we have to remember that the priest is not only a model for his people- he also needs to be able to reach out to them as one of them as it were. Again, I have been with senior priests of our own jurisdiction (which is usually characterized as 'traditional') when they visited with parishioners or went to restaurants in lay clothes. In these cases I was in a robe- but it didn't bother me what these priests did. In certain settings a priest wants to be a bit more informal- and the Lord knows that I certainly do the same in my own way in certain settings.

In addition, couldn't some pastoral roles require the priest to be in the "midst of civil society?" For example, when visiting a parishioner in the hospital, the priest would be performing a pastoral role in the midst of civil society. So, in this case, would he wear clerical garb or lay clothes? Or doesn't it really matter?


I always appear in ryassa and cross when visiting my people in the hospital. Note that the priest often arrives with the Body & Blood in order to give communion to the sick.

I'm inquisitive and interested in this subject having come from an Evangelical Protestant background where pastors preferred not to distinguish themselves by their clothing, whether in a pastoral setting or any other setting for that matter. The Protestant teaching on the priesthood of all believers being central, many Protestant pastors (specifically Evangelical) want to convey the message to their congregation: "Hey, I'm just like one of you. We're all priests and we all have the calling to minister." So, the idea of a pastor dressing differently than the rest of the congregation (the term laity was strongly frowned upon) was regarded negatively and as unnecessary, and often offensive and unscriptural. This trend has become more and more popular in Evangelical circles so that many pastors are now preferring to dress down in jeans and T-shirts, or hawaiian shirts and shorts, veering away from the more conservative suit.


For us, the priest must appear as a priest. I still recall so clearly the first visit my parish priest made me at home. I don't remember a word that he said to me- but the image of his 'shape' if I can put it that way, in his ryassa and cross, was so powerful that that was all that was really needed. So, if the priest doesn't appear outwardly different he should still at least be as a priest in bearing.

In Christ-
Fr Raphael

#11 Cyprian (Humphrey)

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Posted 09 June 2011 - 06:13 PM

This gentleman is wearing a bowler. In the Victorian and Edwardian periods, it was considered less formal than the Top hat that aristocracy wore, but yet more formal than a Flat Cap. It was very popular with working class men, and also worn by aristocracy when they were "dressing down". It's actually the hat that was statistically more popular than the "cowboy hat" in the American West, contrary to the depictions we see in TV and movies. I have one, but have yet to wear it with monastic garb - the only advantage I could see in doing so is the brim: it could be helpful to keep rain off one's glasses. Other than that, it is quite a nice hat.
Attached File  bowler.jpg   14.85K   164 downloads

But, I think we should also take into consideration that the Victorian and Edwardian eras (which really weren't that long ago!) had surprisingly rather strict "dress codes" for the average person. It would have been completely unthinkable for a male to be outdoors in public without a hat! Similarly, not wearing a waistcoat (vest), and a jacket of some sort would simply have not been done. Only persons involved in heavy labour (digging, construction, etc.) might have laid them aside while working.

Quite possibly, that might have been St Tikhon's motivation for wearing the bowler, and other accoutrements of the day - simply to not offend the sensibilities of the society he found himself in. It was only very recently that Jack Kennedy popularized men going around in public sans chapeau, and James Dean popularized the T-shirt (which up until then had been considered an undergarment not unlike boxer shorts or Y fronts!) as stepping out clothing.

But, that's just my two kopeks worth...

#12 Paul Fowler

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Posted 09 June 2011 - 08:10 PM

I think a Bowler hat is usually called a Derby in America, I may be wrong, but I understood they were the same, Bowler being British English and Derby American English for the same thing

Reader Paul

#13 Richard A. Downing

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Posted 09 June 2011 - 08:25 PM

I recently returned from our Deanery Conference, attended by many clergy and monastics including Archbishop Gabriel, our bishop and the EP's exarch. At the conference all the clergy, monks and nuns wore the appropriate garb, of course, even to the party.

What I found interesting was that the Archbishop changed into 'civies' to travel home to Paris on the train. I enquired about this, and was told that most clergy have to do this these days when travelling by public transport or face the chance of distressing confrontations. A sad reflection on the state of modern European life.

Love, Richard.

#14 Paul Cowan

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Posted 10 June 2011 - 02:49 AM

This gentleman is wearing a bowler. ...


Fr., he looks surprisingly similar to Bat Masterson. I never knew you were a history buff. :)

#15 Cyprian (Humphrey)

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Posted 10 June 2011 - 04:54 AM

That is Bat Masterson. FWIW, I never knew I was a history buff either. I just have had the (mis)fortune to be researching some stuff lately, and discovered there are people who are known as "clothing historians". I never knew that specific field to be part of academic discipline. Nevertheless, there's all sorts of bizarre little tidbits I've picked up.

And, yes, the hat has many names.

The bowler hat, also known as a coke hat, derby (US), billycock or bombin, is a hard felt hat with a rounded crown originally created in 1849 for the British soldier and politician Edward Coke, the younger brother of the 2nd Earl of Leicester.



#16 Fr Raphael Vereshack

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Posted 10 June 2011 - 01:36 PM

This gentleman is wearing a bowler.

Yes- that's it exactly. That's what Abp Tikhon was wearing in the photo of him while in N America. In other words the idea is that in civil society he adopted the local dress of where he was bishop at the time. It's also important to note though that this was for the time & place, dignified wear; not something informal. In other words he was adopting to local conditions in a dignified way.

In Christ-
Fr Raphael

#17 Archimandrite Irenei

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Posted 11 June 2011 - 05:03 PM

The instructions for priests of the Russian Orthodox Church outside of Russia are very clear:

'The priest who is provided by his parish with sufficient support to allow him to live without taking on secular employment is duty-bound to maintain the outward appearance of an Orthodox priest; in other words, he must have long hair, a beard and a ryassa, and wear over his ryassa a cross of the approved form, and not one of arbitrary design; and by his outward appearance he will show himself to be the model of a true pastor.' (Руководственные правила для священнослужителей, 1956, §16)



#18 Darlene Griffith

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Posted 11 June 2011 - 07:41 PM

This discussion on clergy attire has got me to thinking....can/should priests wear casual clothing when among parishioners, say at a parish picnic? When I say casual, I mean clothing such as shorts, T-shirts, jeans, swimming suits, along this line. As you might expect, there is not a dress code for Protestant pastors in these situations. Neither is there a dress code for the pastor's wife (except among conservative Protestants, such as Old Order Mennonites). Along this line, is there what might be considered a dress code for priests' wives at casual events? Is it acceptable for priests' wives to wear shorts, jeans, T-shirts, swim wear, when at casual events such as parish picnics?

Again, I am not asking in this particular case about casual settings such as in the home environment or when visiting their relatives at family events (reunions, holiday events, etc.). Rather I am specifically interested in what kind of attire clergy (and their wives) should wear at casual events when in the company of parishioners.

#19 Archimandrite Irenei

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Posted 11 June 2011 - 08:03 PM

Dear Darlene: In the Russian Church (at least, abroad), this would not be permitted of a priest, unless some actual activity he were performing required him, for that activity, to wear some other clothes for its completion. Priests are expected to dress like priests at all times in public - whatever the function.

To what degree a bishop enforces this might vary, but this is the standard of at least this one portion of the Orthodox Church.

#20 Father David Moser

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Posted 11 June 2011 - 08:20 PM

Neither is there a dress code for the pastor's wife (except among conservative Protestants, such as Old Order Mennonites). Along this line, is there what might be considered a dress code for priests' wives at casual events? Is it acceptable for priests' wives to wear shorts, jeans, T-shirts, swim wear, when at casual events such as parish picnics?


My wife's standard is "if I wear a 'dress' so does she". Now I will also mention that in a parish filled with Russian women, it is rare that they wear anything less than a fancy dress. I rarely see my female parishioners dressed in anything except a dress - and a "nice" one at that, usually with heels or at least dress shoes/sandals of some kind and frequently make-up and jewelry. They tend to dress this way all the time, even when cooking, cleaning, and doing other chores (like painting) - just add an apron and off we go.

As for the priest's attire, let me refer you back to the answers given by Fr Raphael and myself to your previous questions as I think they provide the answer to this one.

Fr David Moser




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