Helen Manfield on the case of the stolen cassock
As a candidate for Ordained Ministry in the Anglican Church of Canada, I needed to get a set of clerical gear: robes, a cassock and surplice. I knew exactly where I wanted to get them from. I was introduced to a book called Beneath the Cassock written by Joy Carroll, who was the religious script advisor of the UK sitcom The Vicar of Dibley.
Carroll was the woman who helped Geraldine be the priest that she was. She advised the show producers on the scriptures, the theological content and the liturgical correctness of the services. The book was a fascinating look behind the scenes. Carroll shared the story of her journey into ministry and how it was that she became one of the first women ordained in the UK in 1992.
In part of her story she tells of how she went in search of a cassock that would fit a female figure. She went to J&M Sewing in Newcastle, England to be fitted and had one custom made one for the occasion of her ordination.
Joy Carroll did some great ministry in the tougher parts of London, and then met Jim Wallis, the editor of Sojourners. They are married and now live in Washington.
So when it came to me getting a set of robes, there was only one place to go – J&M Sewing. I sent my measurements to them and had them ship me out a set from the UK. It has 39 buttons on my cassock – how very Anglican – one button for each of the 39 Articles of Faith in the Book of Common Prayer.
They have been what I wear every Sunday until a couple of weeks ago. While downtown one evening, someone decided to rifle through my vehicle to see if there was anything of value. There is usually nothing much in my car, but as I was driving home that night I realised that my robes had been stolen. I had been taking them between churches and now they were gone.
It was interesting making a police report and describing what a cassock and surplice was, “the long black coat and flowy white thing that a priest wears.” I am not quite sure what someone will do with them. I hope they are keeping someone warm. My new set is on its way to Canada. So if you see a person walking down the street looking unexpectedly priestly, they might just have on the cassock made by the same people who make cassocks for me and the Vicar of Dibley. If you meet this person, smile and bless them.