Why Clergy Stoles? Smells and Bells!

I usually start my day with a devotion from Common Prayer: A Liturgy for Ordinary Radicals by Shane Claiborne and Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove. The May 4 guiding of song, scripture and prayer ended with some thoughts titled, “Smells and Bell.” Sharing parts of it here —

We worship a God who came as a material Savior. So when we pray, we can use all of our senses. We see symbols of our faith. We hear words and songs. We smell the incense of our prayers rising to God. We touch and taste Christ in the sacramental life. Just as a whiff of apple pie can conjure up nostalgic memories of home, so our incense can help us pray. But, as Amos declare, if all we have is incense , without justice for the poor and fruit from our prayers we should snuff out the incense and shut up with our songs, because they are nauseating to God. If our material tools help us worship the eternal God and bear fruit for the kingdom, then we keep them. If our material tools lead to narcissism or to an obsession with having the right incense or the correct color of candle, then we need to let go of them. Disagreements in church history have led many Christians to feel like the physical world and the spiritual word are at odds, but it’s important to see them as complements , not opposites. After all, God breathed into the dirt to make humanity. The incarnation of Jesus is all about God taking on flesh and being born as a baby who cries, eats and poops. Jesus uses physical stuff like dirt and split to heal people, and God is always communicating — through rocks and fire (even through a donkey). Physical stuff can help us pray. In the celebration of communion, or the Eucharist, we eat bread and drink wind in remembrance of Jesus. The physical elements help us literally “re-member” Jesus as we are knit together into his body. We are what we eat. A lot of the most sacred and beautiful rituals of Christianity are mysterious. There is more going on than what we see, but what we see can hep us know God at work in the world. ...

I’ll be the first to admit that clergy stoles like what we create and sell at Carrot Top Studio are not necessary for ministry. But likewise they aren’t unworthy in worship. We pray that the stoles can be used as great complements to help us “re-member” Jesus as we carry on in this business of worshipping and living it out.

Detail of an  Ordination/Pentecost  stole.

Detail of an Ordination/Pentecost stole.