I live in Ontario. Living in Ontario, as far as Plain people goes, is like living in Pennsylvania. It’s a big place, and there are many Anabaptist communities. Eventually even a newcomer will start to notice the Plain people.
But because I am not Anabaptist I go places that other Plain people do not. I go to Anglican church functions, for instance. I go into cities and malls. If I am not the only prayer cap in sight, it is unusual. (There are Beachy Amish in the area, so I sometimes see Beachy girls out shopping. They drive and the young ones wear hoodies and denim skirts with their little white caps.)
When I went to a conference at a very large city church, I was so noticably Plain that people stared on the streets. People assumed that maybe I didn’t know how to order coffee at Starbucks. (I’ll have a grande dark roast, please.) Okay, I didn’t use the chopsticks at the Thai restaurant, but I do know how. I just have a thing about chopsticks now. They don’t get washed, but thrown out. So I use a fork, because I know it will be reused.
I felt like something of a minor celebrity. People were excited at first – the Mennonites are here! Oh, sorry. But the shock of meeting a Plain Anglican was quite an experience for others.
Being a visible witness may be a new concept for some. We have worked so hard to fit in. We don’t even expect our clergy to stand out much. The collar, in most places, is the symbol of the ordained, but it is worn with secular clothes. The cassock and cap are long gone, even in most conservative dioceses. I don’t know if that is so bad. I’ve been caught outside the church in cassock and collar, and didn’t mind because my cassock was always presentable. But the last cassock in public I saw on someone else was old, faded and a bit stained. Is that a good witness? I suppose an old frayed clergy shirt and a torn suit jacket aren’t much of an advertisement either.
How concerned should we be for our public appearance? At what point do we pass from presentable to intolerable?