What we wear says a great deal about us. Clothing identifies, and connects us. It’s lovely on special occasions at Mass at St Chrysostom’s that several of our church members, coming from a wide variety of cultures celebrate their identity in what they wear.
This year on All Saints Sunday we celebrated our wonderful, multilingual congregation by having an International Mass. In our worship of God we brought our different languages into the liturgy, and we celebrated our fellowship with the communion of saints. And many congregation members wore special clothes to mark the day.
As mass began we were welcomed in four languages from among the many languages of our people. Shabana welcomed us in Urdu, Damian in Ibo and Admos in Shona – and we had an English welcome too. Bahar, read the Bible reading in Farsi, and Mi Young read the Holy Gospel in Korean. During Communion Kevin sang Emperor Kangxi’s Hymn to the Cross in Mandarin, and after Communion children of Nigerian heritage led us in singing a song popular among Nigerian Christians – ‘On the mountain’. As the procession left Mass we sang the God of Abraham litany with cantors and members of the congregation sharing out the verses among us.
The Church of England is changing, and tentatively stepping outside its somewhat conservative English box. Many congregations are recognising, celebrating and integrating, at long last, the diversity of Christians which make up the Christian church and which rightly have a share in the liturgy – the worship of the whole people of God, the Church catholic, from all continents, cultures, languages and from all times.
Christians are recovering the value of using all the senses in prayer and worship. Too often worship has been too dependent on the spoken word. Congregations – and we try hard at St Chrysostom’s to do this – are more and more recognising the variety of forms of expression among them, and allowing the variety to enrich worship in word, in music, in style … and in clothing too.