Shorn Hair

Well, this question often comes up in the term searches, so I’ll just answer it quickly.

Is cutting your hair in any manner the same as shorn hair?

“Shearing” means to cut something very short. If I shear sheep, I put one blade of the sheep shears against the skin and cut as close as I can without nicking the animal. (I sometimes fail at that, and their lovely white delicate skin gets a nip, which is why there is Blu-Kote.)

“Shorn” is the old past tense of “to shear.” We say “sheared” now, but “shorn” is still correct if archaic.

“Shorn” hair is cut close to the skin, like a man’s military haircut.

Why was this wrong for women? Women were to embody their virtue of being women, as God made them. There may be an implication of peace in this, that women were the guardians of peace in the community. They were protectors of their children and hearth, but were not to fight and risk losing their lives, or their children would not be nursed or fed.

Those who did not go to war did not cut their hair short. Women, priests, Jewish men 2000 years ago; all exempt from military service, and this was indicated by long hair. Orthodox priests in the most traditional churches still do not cut their hair or beards. Some of them achieve impressive masses of locks!

For women, it was also a sign of modesty, that even if she were caught naked, she would be covered by her hair as by a veil or cloak. It suggests that Jewish and Christian women regarded modesty as a virtue missing amongst their pagan neighbours.

So should Christian women cut their hair short? Obviously, I don’t. I don’t cut mine at all. I would say the reasonable interpretation for women who are not bound to a rule or ordnung is that they may trim their hair, they may even cut it fairly short such as shoulder length, but it should always be modest and feminine, and accompanied by appropriate modesty of the body. We are not objects on display, after all; we are honoured members of the body of Christ, daughters of the king, children of God.

The Only One in Sight

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?

Missional, Emerging Church

I’ve been left with a lot of open questions after attending a conference on churchplanting. It was more about church re-planting, really, which is in many ways the same thing. Grafting is a word that comes to mind – adding new branches onto the existing trunk.

“Missional” is a hot trendy word right now in the church, just about everywhere. And the question we took with us to the conference really wasn’t answered, and it makes some people defensive when asked:

Can the institutional church be missional?

I’m still thinking we haven’t found a way to do that. Too many churches, particularly here in Canada, are stuck in a maintenance mode. They don’t want to change; they want the world to change back to what they think it used to be. Bad news – it won’t. And it was never that. Too often I’ve heard from even fairly young people (under fifty) that we need the church of 1960; the patriarchal structure included, the pre-liturgical reform prayer book, and all the rest they think that means.

All right, I think using the 1549 prayer book just might be a Fresh Expression of church, and I’m a little shocked with the uncovered heads in the pews, the perfume, the pants on women and all that stuff I regularly preach against – but that pre-Beatles whitewashed church never existed. The 1960 church was full of prejudice and even overt oppression. It was not missional either, except that we all put our Sunday School pennies in the Good Book bank for the little ones in Africa to have their own New Testaments. And wasn’t that an incredible denial of the whole political situation on that continent in 1960?

But the current trend toward originality in worship and teaching brings forward other problems. We have little funding to promote what will be new programmes – even if we don’t want our emerging church movement to be programmed, it will happen in the institution because that’s how institutions work. Things have to be written down, outlined, directed and funded. Accountability happens. And that’s another weakness in missional church. There has to be accountability to someone, somewhere, and that’s what institutions do.

There’s an elitism inherent in new expressions of church, as well. I know, this gets denied, but when we start using words like art and poetry, it will exclude a lot of people who are wary of the fine arts. I don’t blame them. Fine arts are inaccessible to many, both because the subject is daunting and because they think of the fine arts as inaccessible. I hear stories of homeless people working together to create works of art in these worship spaces, and that’s wonderful, but there are other poor and working class people who turn away from some of this in utter incomprehension. They may be part of what Tex Sample called the “oral culture,” who have no connection anymore to the history of their own civilization, and they may be the toughest people for church to reach. I only reached the “blue collar” neighbours by showing up at their houses and farms and talking to them as a family. They weren’t interested in programmes or new liturgies. They were more concerned with acceptance. And when an elite of any kind is entrenched, whether it is traditional or innovative, acceptance is hard to get. My measure of success with these outsiders was if they came to church at all in a year.

I suppose that I thought we were the church with a mission. The Lord gave it to us – Go forth and preach the good news, baptizing. And that’s what the church did in its first few years, and then later did some more. So are we looking for a fresh expression of church, or are we looking to be the apostolic church we should be?

Blogging, Still

I got really occupied this week. We all did, here at the snow-covered monastic institution overlooking the lake.

Someone asked via someone else’s blog, “Are you still blogging?”

I’m not sure what tone was meant…

But I am still bloggin`along, just didn`t get anything posted to the site this week so far. There`s tomorrow, because I am dog-tired tonight. (Although I don`t think the dogs here get all that tired, for all the sleeping they do…)

Plain Television

How often do you see real Plain people on television? There’s the occasional news story, usually sensational, and then there’s – nothing.

Do you watch Cake Boss? It is a reality show about a bakery in Hoboken, New Jersey, run by a large family of Italian background. They are an excitable, quick-tempered group who seem to love each other and have a good time while bickering over how to make cakes and run the business. The cakes are incredible, often beautiful, and usually monstrously large. They put together cakes to feed thousands!

In a recent episode, the pater familias and his brother-in-law had to take a delivery truck full of cake from New Jersey to North Carolina. They for some unknown reason got way off the highway. I’ve driven that route many times, and never got lost in Lancaster County. You get on the Interstate, you keep going, you get there. I’ve never been detoured through Pennsylvania.

The two men claim to be hopelessly lost. Their camera crew is equally lost. They pull into a farm driveway and begin to argue. The map seems to be no help, since they don’t know what road they are on. Slowly, a horse-drawn buggy approaches. They are certain that asking directions will be futile, that this Amishman will not know where the highway is.

In desperation, they ask directions and he points out to them that they have a ways to go Southward before they’ll find North Carolina. They are still excited, arguing, blaming each other. He sits quietly in the buggy, patiently waiting for them to finish. Without any further argument from them, he says he’ll show them the right way to go. Within minutes, slowly following the horse, they are back on the right road.

Screaming, shouting and arguing did not get the job done. It probably delayed the directions they needed to go the right way. A few seconds of patience would have set them right. They needed to listen, and then follow – slowly – the guide before them.

It’s a bit of a Christian metaphor, isn’t it?

A Great Cloud of Witnesses

I got asked this question a lot this week: “How many Plain Anglicans are there?” I guesstimated that world-wide we number about five hundred. Now I’m not so sure how good that number is; I probably counted people who aren’t officially Anglican, and some who aren’t officially Plain. It’s not as if we need to sign a confession or a covenant to be Anglican or Plain, but it is a matter of self-identity.

I’ve never been too concerned about whether my friends are Anglican, Plain, or Anglican Plain. How we live in witness to Christ and fulfill His mission in this world is the real issue. Some of us are called to be the visible witneses, to put our sincerity on the line and let people see that Christians can be what they say they are. (Most of the time, or at least without failing some of the time. All have fallen short of the glory of God!) Plain does mean that any hypocrisy will be very visible to the world. We stand for the apostolic Christian faith, the first century church translated to our own day, and when we fall short of the apostolic model, people know it. So we are called to be sincere, to be fully informed, to be mindful, and to pray, pray, pray for help at all times. I certainly do not want to shame my Lord or the others who carry His name.

How to define what it is to be Plain? Our variety of practices is great, yet we are united in faith. We are, mostly, people called through the witness of the Anabaptists and the Quakers, we are convicted of Biblical principles of life, we are generally traditional in lifestyle. We don’t all agree on doctrine or practice; we do agree on the conviction of conscience. I think I work at keeping a balance between open-heartedness and the way of Christ, so that I am not in error and do not accept error from others.

As Christians who are Plain, almost Plain, or just living a life of simplicity and faith, our practices in appearance range from my austere Plain to a feminine simplicity of others, with men who are in the category mostly in the Mennonite or Conservative Quaker mold. Some of are noticably Plain, others less so. Some of us could be identified as belonging to a specific group, others not. It is not a concern for me; we don’t have an ordnung and likely never will.

Are you called to Plain or the simple life? If so, how will that express itself? In your daily life? In your household? In your appearance? If you are a seeker in this mode of faith, be assured that there is love and support along the way. No one expects that you will turn out as a finished product overnight; most of us have worked at our expressions over years!

But welcome; there is room for all.

Off to a Conference

I am going to a conference on Vital Church Planting this week. It is the first time in almost two years that I’ve been able to attend a large gathering. I’m not a church conference kind of person, but this one looks like it will be worthwhile, with new information rather than a bunch of people congratulating each other on what a good job we are all doing! Nicholas is equipped to stay alone for two days – meals in the refrigerator to be microwaved (a skill he has recently reacquired). Although I’m a woodstove and handpump kind of gal, there are times I appreciate modern conveniences, too. This is one of them! I’ll let you know more about the conference as it happens.