Too Hot for Vestments? | The Community
The Anglican Church of Canada home page
Sites at the Anglican Church of CanadaFind a ChurchFrequently Asked QuestionsStaff Listing

Too Hot for Vestments?

A circular thermometer dial exceeds 120 F

Photo (c) Matt Carey, from flickr. Used under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0 license.

Yesterday I offered water frequently to the poor electrician climbing into my attic to install a ceiling fan; the humidex was north of 45, and it was certainly hotter in the attic! He had to wear protective clothes as he was working, though he was in a Tilley hat, instead of a hard hat. It can’t have been much fun.

Reading the satirical blog of “Archdruid Eileen” today, I enjoyed her comments on what she called “thermal lagging“–the difference between vestments that work well in English winters and the current heat wave.  In one Anglo-Catholic parish I served, it wouldn’t have been a proper mass were I not wearing cassock, amice, alb, cincture, stole, maniple, and chasuble. At the same time I was the curate at Christ’s Church Cathedral, where most people seemed to think that the “Matthew Griffin Humidex Vestment Cut-Off Index” (a stole was going around my neck over my clothes if the humidex was above 30) was a wise idea. Two communities, and two different approaches. And this summer? Well, I admit to being very grateful that the parish in which I’m currently serving just installed air conditioning!

Vestments aren’t meant to be about the clergy:  really, they’re meant to obscure the people and point to God’s glory. But it is awfully difficult to let them represent what they’re meant to, if the people wearing them look like they need a glass of ice water, stat!

The summer is a different time in the life of our church. For those of us with air conditioning, vestments might stay the same–but what happens where you are? Do the clergy skip some vestments? How does the summer-time look different when you gather with your community for services?

Matthew Griffin

About Matthew Griffin

I’m a priest serving in the Diocese of Niagara, with both a pastoral and an academic interest in the relationship between liturgy and theology. I enjoy reading, cooking, and spending time with my beloved and our young son.

This entry was posted in Liturgy and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

14 Responses to Too Hot for Vestments?

  1. Wearing vestments in hotter weather need not be unbearable. Wear shorts underneath, then get a traditional alb from C.M.Almy (the material is no heavier than a shirt).

    • George is right on here. Shorts are an absolute essential under any vestments. I go to a pretty Anglo-Catholic parish in Toronto, so vestments are expected. Mind you, I only have to go with two layers- cassock and cotta- and I melt just a little bit during services in the summer. The clergy have two or three layers on me, so I can only imagine how hot that gets. Shorts can ameliorate it a bit.


      • I wear vestments year round, when possible… but in the summer, I tend to wear shorts, short sleeves, and sandals underneath (hey, if Jesus could wear them, so can I). All that being said, I find loose, flowing clothing a lot more comfortable and breathable than, say, pants and a t-shirt. 🙂

        • Matthew Griffin

          Hence my befuddlement at the invention of a cincture. Sure, let’s add a device to trap heat!

          • YES. As far as I can tell, aside from any symbolic meaning built into thread colour, knot style, or physical placement, cinctures are practical only if one’s vestments are too long.

  2. I too have the heat-limited vestment rule. I once was told by a superior that I was NOT permitted to remove my vestments despite a ridiculously hot church building – and it was just an alb and stole over clothes – it was horribly uncomfortable right until I passed out. There has to be a healthy limit – especially for those of us who do not do well in heat! I love the elegance of vestments, but they just don’t look good crumpled on the floor.

  3. A light ‘chasualb’ and stole usually work for me. It might also be worth noting that the late Cardinal Montini of Milan touted simplicity rather than ‘the pompous vestments’ worn by most clergy: and Pope Francis certainly seems to be promoting this approach. In the end, simple dignity and common sense should prevail – especially in this post-Christendom era.

  4. I did an experiment last week, just to see what would happen, and it worked well, so I’ll share it, as it is pertinent to this discussion.

    I am participating in a more conservative, anglo-catholic parish where vestments are the norm, nary to be set aside for mere heat. I am a Saskatchewan transplant from Ontario, and I am well familiar with the heat and humidity, and when it’s hot here, it’s deadly. So I decided that perhaps I should dress up, instead of wearing t shirts and jeans.

    I bought an under armour heat gear compression shirt and wore that under my dress clothes. Amazingly enough, I didn’t have soaked dress clothes and they didn’t bunch up and stick like they do on those summer days when you can wring the dampness out of the air around you. It works for the Roughriders, and they have way more gear on than we wear vestments.

    Just a thought.

  5. My dear mother made my chasubles — most of them from wonderful fine wool cloth. The green chasuble doesn’t see much use for much of the Ordinary Time. Even though the congregation I currently serve has an air conditioned sanctuary, the cool air doesn’t always reach the chancel. The Evangelical Lutheran Church of the Reformation generally appreciates a fine liturgy, but they don’t seem to mind that their pastor usually wears only the alb & stole during the hotter months of the year.

    In this kind of weather I find it somewhat appropriate to chuckle at the German Lutheran missionaries who thought the vestments of northern Europe quite appropriate in their travels to places such as Papua New Guinea & Guyana.

  6. I tell my congregation in July that they can either have me dressed or have me conscious. I came close to passing out from heat stroke behind the altar at my last parish while wearing the usual including a chausible. And in my experience if I’m dripping in sweat the congregation is so worried about me they are to distracted to enter into the mystery. If they can’t find God because I’m down to an alb and stole they’re not looking hard enough!

  7. Fr. Bengry

    I love how this question serves up an opportunity to subtly bash vestment wearing. Vestments in hot weather: grin and bear it if you can… do what you can to stay cool (I like the under armour heat gear compression shirt idea and will try it!) and ditch them when you just can’t. But bear in mind: none of this is about ‘comfort’ and a minister in a t-shirt and shorts is nine times out of ten a hideous sight to behold. Frumpy.

  8. When it comes to vestments in hot weather we need to think of our brothers and sisters in hot climates around the middle east. The way to keep cool there is flowing, loose fitting clothing, much like a loose fitting monastic alb (in cotton) and a light unlined (silk or cotton) chasuble. Thankfully
    I serve in a community that has a large selection of vestments from heavy winter brocades to light summer cottons and silks. Minimal clothing under these of course. To help the flow of air several large but quiet fans are places around the worship space to keep the air moving. It works just fine.

  9. A few more thoughts… while there are many options for vestment fabrics, we need to be cognisant of the cost of multiple sets of vestments – many of us are on limited incomes and paying off student loans and… Alas, I like the vestments and wear mine whenever applicable (again, unconscious is not a good look!)
    That being said, I agree with Fr. Bengry that appearances do matter and it’s not about comfort – on days when it’s too hot for me to wear vestments I’m not just in shorts and a tee; I’m usually in a loose skirt and my clergy shirt – and wear the stole for service. It’s possible to be professionally and appropriately attired without overheating.

Click on a tab to select how you'd like to leave your comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

  • I tell my congregation in July that they can either have me dressed or have me conscious. I came close to passing out from heat stroke behind the altar at my last parish while wearing the usual including a chausible. And in my experience if I'm dripping in sweat the congregation is so worried about me they are to distracted to enter into the mystery. If they can't find God because I'm down to an alb and stole they're not looking hard enough!