Living Plain

Plain in Fredericton

We went to the local Anglican church on Sunday, where I used to be pastor. It’s a great community, and I love seeing our old friends there. Yes, we are the only Plain people there, but I think they are all used to it by now. Nicholas doesn’t look much different than he did before, except for the long hair and the big beard.  I am different, with my covered head, my full dresses and boots. Oh, wait, maybe not. I didn’t cover back then, but the parish usually saw me in cassock and surplice – and boots.

The neighbours aren’t used to it, though. As we disembarked in the parking lot – and at the roadside edge, since we were a bit late, as usual – a couple of vehicles slowed down, and the occupants turned back to look at us. His broad-brimmed black hat, my trim, tied bonnet and black shawl; hey, when did the Amish move to New Denmark? I wave when people stare like that.  There is no reason to be hostile or unfriendly – they are curious, and I want to make a good impression for the next time they see us. And since that might be at the farmer’s market, I want them to have the idea in their heads thart we are open and approachable. And that isn’t just a marketing ploy, because we had a good ministry through the last farmer’s market where we sold. It is not a matter of making a few dollars, but of being witnesses to the love of Jesus Christ.

I know what the questions will be at the market: Are you Amish? Then what are you? Are there many like you? Do you dress like this all the time, or is it a costume just for the market? (No; Plain Anglican; a few; yes, we do, and no, it isn’t.) Because we are mistaken for Amish or Mennonites frequently, and I have no problem with that, we are conscious that we are held to a kind of responsibility by our choice, to avoid behaviour that would shame our Anabaptist brothers and sisters. Around the world, Plain means sober and quiet Christians, whether Anabaptist, Brethren or Quaker. Admittedly, good Christian behaviour isn’t much different, but there are things that a secularly dressed Christian can do without anyone saying, “Hey, did you see that?” Go to rock concerts; have a drink in a bar. We wouldn’t do that, as it would mislead people. (And you may be Plain or modest dressing, and say, “I have no trouble with that!” but that is your own decision. I’m not telling you what to do, just saying what we are comfortable doing.) We avoid loud or aggressive behaviour in public or while driving; I try to be extremely polite and helpful. We try to be the people of peace we are saying we are by our outward appearance.

Our daily life is as Plain as we can make it, with the addition of internet communication. We keep a phone line for emergencies. But we try to live as simply and as honestly as we can. We avoid luxury and ornamentation, as much as possible. We don’t need to show that God has blessed us with material goods, as we believe that excessive possessions are not a blessing, but a tie to the world we want to leave behind.

It’s not a matter of looking Plain, but of being Plain, all the way through.


13 thoughts on “Living Plain

  1. Thank you for this post. It is an encouragement as I am the only one in my congregation who is practicing head covering. I have always been drawn to the Amish who by their clothing make a statement that they are separated for Christ. It is difficult being noticed for being different but it is a small thing we do for Christ who died for us.

  2. I completely agree with you on many of your beliefs. I find it a sad commentary on human behavior that by showing politeness, lack of aggression and helpfulness we are the exception instead of the rule. What I find even more annoying is that because other drivers see me with a bun cover and a cross on my rear window that they feel they can cut me off because after all I obviously won’t do anything.

    On the other side of it, I will have a drink with a dinner in a restaurant, but do not go to bars. Dear Husband gave me tickets to a favorite band of mine so we will be going to see them next week. However, that does not mean that I will be wearing what the others are wearing. I can be someplace, enjoy myself and still maintain my dignity and decorum.

    • I’ll have a drink in a restaurant – we drink at home, so I don’t want to look like I’m being a hypocrite. And we go to the liquor store to buy our own wine and beer, not send someone else. I just don’t feel comfortable sitting in a bar. I might feel different about it in England, where my husband’s whole family will go to the pub. I could go to a concert hall to hear a band, but would not feel right going to a festival type rock event, like I used to do when young. There seems to be some line I draw, whether it is sensible or not.

  3. I try to be polite too, I just see no reason being hostile then I will have to go around expecting to be hostile and that is not fun. It is OK to expect to be polite and kind, that is what I want to be towards people anyway.

    I would go to a bar or pub and to concerts as well but dressed the way I do. I rarely go to concerts though, but if a favorite artist would play in Sweden and I could get tickets without ruining myself I would go and enjoy myself to the max. I have been to pubs in England and I would have no problem going to a bar here but not a night club to party all night. I have left that life behind (yes, as a young girl the first years of college I studied hard and partied harder…) I also drink alcohol at home or at a friend’s house but I don’t drink much, a beer or two (I don’t enjoy wine very much).

  4. I dress plain the majority of the time, in cape dress and kapp…Sometimes I get looks, but, so far no one has ever approached me or asked. I think it helps that there are a number of plain people in Fredericton or in the surrounding area…and that there are at least two families selling at the Saturday morning market which are plain (one independent Anabaptist I believe… and an Amish family from outside of Woodstock).

    • You must be the only one in your particular environment! (Sorry, I can tell a lot from your email address!) So it is probably you I hear about. Bless you in your plain calling. I haven’t been down to Freddy on a Saturday, so haven’t been into the market. Maybe we can meet up sometime.

  5. In our town, the liquor store is the only place to rent decent rug shampoo machines. I bring my kids in to help cart the machine and soap to the car. At first the clerks were upset, but now they give them free candies because they know how well behaved they are and that I’m not buying alcohol, just renting a rug machine. Our dress and deportment (actions, behavior) are silent witness to our hearts.

  6. I have never been a “bar” type person. The whole “scene” stuff has just never appealed to me.

    If I lucked out and had someone give me tickets to a concert of an artist or group I liked (a co-worker once gave me tickets to a Peter, Paul and Mary concert since she didn’t know who they were); or to classical music concert (the dean’s secretary of my alma mater did once) I would attend in my cap, bonnet and all.

    I have found that I probably get a few more looks than prior to wearing a cap, but I have to use the motorized carts or not shop. I have noticed that when shopping in the city Muslim and (I think) Mennonite women who cover give me lots more smiles and make eye contact. Prior to my wearing a cap in public they avoided eye contact.

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