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Geneva gown

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This Lutheran pastor is wearing a Geneva gown.

The Geneva gown, also called a pulpit gown, pulpit robe, or preaching robe, is an ecclesiastical garment customarily worn by ordained ministers in the Christian churches that arose out of the historic Protestant Reformation.

Description Edit

The gown, analogous to the Western doctoral robe and similar to American judicial attire, is constructed from heavy material, most appropriately of black color, and usually features double-bell sleeves with a cuff (mimicking the cassock once worn under it) and velvet facings (or panels) running over the neck and down both sides of the front enclosure length-wise (mimicking the ecclesiastical scarf or tippet once worn over it.

An example of the Geneva gown can be seen here... [1]

A minister who has earned an academic doctoral degree in any of the theological disciplines (D.D., D.Min., S.T.D., Th.D.) or in the liberal arts and sciences (Ph.D., D.A.) may adorn each sleeve with three chevrons or bars of velvet cloth, also most properly black, signifying senior scholarly credentials. The velvet panels of the gown's facings and chevrons are often adorned with red piping.

Contemporary choir robes and other expressions of lay vesture are inspired by, but remain distinct from, the Geneva gown.

Purpose Edit

The simple yet dignified gown is meant to convey the authority and solemn duty of the ordained ministry as called by God to proclaim the Gospel of Jesus and preach the biblical Word of God, the bearer being a learned minister of the Word and teaching elder (presbyter) over the Church faithful.

Worn over street clothes, traditionally a cassock but today more commonly a business suit with or without clerical collar, the gown eschews ostentation, obscuring individual grooming and concealing fashion preferences, and instead draws attention to the wearer's office and not the person.

Usage Edit

By convention a minister may wear the gown only at expressly Christian services of worship wherein a sermon, that is an exposition of Scripture, is delivered.

With the gown a minister may also wear preaching bands and a liturgical stole. Less typically a minister may choose to put on white gloves when distributing the elements of the Lord's Supper, a practice predating the advent of stainless steel chalices and communion trays.

For historical and theological reasons the gown is most typical of Congregational, Presbyterian and Reformed churches, that is those congregations primarily influenced by Calvinist formulations of Christian doctrine and church order,[1] and less customary but nonetheless common in the Baptist and Methodist traditions. In fact, the pulpit robe is among the usual Methodist vestment worn by elders in a service of worship, although the Alb is also very common.[2] The gown can also be found worn in some "low church" parishes of Lutheran and Anglican communions and in many African-American congregations regardless of denominational affiliation. Rarely, if ever, is this uniquely Protestant attire worn by Eastern Orthodox or Roman Catholic clergy.

In the Church of Scotland, it is normal for the Geneva Gown to be vented (opened at the front), sleeveless, and worn over a cassock. The cassock, usually black (like its counterpart in the Church of England), also comes in blue (signifying the Royal Blue in the Flag of Scotland, which bears the Cross of St. Andrew, the patron saint of Scotland), with a red cassock signifying a Queen's Chaplain. This practice is sometimes followed by some English Methodists and American Presbyterians, although the more familiar American-style gown, or even a black cassock is worn.

Trends Edit

United or Uniting churches which contain an episcopalian element have in some countries (notably Australia; generally not in Canada) tended to abandon the Geneva gown in favor of the more symbolically ecumenical alb and cincture, whereas some non-united evangelical congregations have for various reasons done away with distinct ministerial dress altogether.

Some rabbis and spiritual leaders of other non-Christian faiths have fashioned their modern religious garb patterned after the historic Geneva gown.

References Edit

  1. Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.): Theology and Worship - What about all the different clerical vestments?
  2. General Board of Discipleship of The United Methodist Church: Some Frequently Asked Questions About Clergy Attire and Proper Ways of Addressing Clergy
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