I am captivated by the pageantry of Passion Week. The week begins with purple, the color that’s in season. Purple accentuates the pulpits, the bulletins and the banners in churches (not to mention my shoes and my fingernails).
In one week the color in season changes to the black of Holy Friday. The pulpits, the bulletins and the banners in the church (and, yes, my shoes and fingernails) are quickly changed to don the new, darker color for two long days. And then, early on the first day of the week, the color in season changes again. The royal purple that became a haunting black now transforms into the sunrise-infused gold or white of Easter Sunday.
Perhaps this is why New York City’s Fashion Week doesn’t feel that unfamiliar to me. Perhaps this is why the pageantry of colors, music and lights on the runway stimulate my mind and my spirit. The runways of Fashion Week are communicating cultural stories through the collections of clothing that are fashioned together, similar to the outfit I fashion together each week to lead or participate in worship: my Geneva robe and purple or black or white stole. Just as the colors of Fashion Week reflect what’s in season in order to tell a story, so do the colors that are in season in the church tell the story of what we value and who we are.
It’s perfectly normal that a minister who serves a liturgically vibrant church with a building that is peppered with symbols and seasonal colors would find a fascination with the rituals of fashion week. When I enter the tents at Lincoln Center and make my way to a particular designer’s show, I am aware that I am participating in a cultural liturgy for the next half hour. Just as the acolytes walk down the church runway (or aisle) to symbolize the beginning of worship, so too the lights dim, focusing our attention front and center, the call to worship (or opening song) begins and the first model walks out. This liturgy mirrors so many of our Sunday morning rituals.
Perhaps we in the church understand the pageantry of Fashion Week more than some care to admit
While there is much that could be rightly critiqued about the classism and economical disparity of Fashion Week, I want us to pause our quick dismissal of the vanities of high fashion and take a second glance at the similarities between the rituals that take place in the tents at Lincoln Center and the sanctuaries of our houses of worship.
There are colors in season, a central runway that focuses your attention and people and objects arranged a specific way to communicate a specific message. Obviously the desired focal point is different, but perhaps we in the church understand the pageantry of Fashion Week more than some care to admit. When I am leading my church service, I am experiencing something bigger than myself. I know people who experience Fashion Week in the same manner; there is something bigger than myself going on.
My deepest hope is that our church fashion - the colors and rituals of each season - brings us out of the navel-gazing we too easily slip into and bring us into the story and person of Christ. For while the pageantry of Passion Week and Fashion Week might be similar, the liturgical drama of the church always points to the life and witness of Jesus, the One in whom we adorn our sanctuaries and our lives, the One who calls us to carry our cross and follow Him down the runway called life.