Crowns, Collarettes and Dark Suits

Being in a confessing mood after my previous blog here's another one... I didn't go to church last Sunday night... Indeed I haven't been to church any Sunday night since I got here... And it's amazing... the world didn't end and the church actually thrives.

But anyway, worse (in the eyes of many a NI Evangelical) than not going to church, I, and all my family, went to the theatre. It WAS a benefit performance for the United Methodist Community House, and we were invited there by one of the staff.

The production was called "Crowns" and it was an ensemble musical celebration of the faith and life of women from the African-American tradition, and particularly their love of hats and other headgear... the "crowns" of the title.

Now, without getting overly critical and putting my writer/director/actor hat on, it could have been a little less didactic and had more narrative drive and dramatic energy about it... Then perhaps I wouldn't have kept falling asleep in the first half... Actually it was very warm, and many people were dosing off (Ciaran slept from beginning to end!).

However, there was a lot that was very interesting about it, and it set me wondering what items of clothing within our culture (ie. NI Protestantism) could act as a touchstone for the changing nature of faith and society. Perhaps the Orange Collarette... although that would be two restricted a field of reference... Or perhaps the dark suit... Perhaps nothing else sums up old-style, dour, patriarchal NI Protestantism better... and contrasts more radically with the multi-coloured crowns of the African-American Hat Queens.

Worn for Saturday nights, Sundays, weddings, funerals and the Twelfth by men who got dressed up in a shirt and tie when they came home from wearing a boilersuit in the yard or the ropeworks or the mill. Often, in between wearings, the suit would reside not in a wardrobe, but the pawn shop... Redeemed for the weekends and special occasions.

These days people dress down at nights after being in a suit and tie all day... and dress down for church, if they go at all. We know little about having to redeem suits from pawnbrokers, and little about redemption of any kind...

Nor about putting on Christ as a fresh set of clothes... Not as Sunday best covering over what we wear the rest of the time (though that was what my Uncle Andy Davy did... more of that another time)... But expressing a new reality... A new beginning...



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