St. Mark Lutheran Church

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Aloha Clerical Shirts and Aloha Stoles
As a Lutheran pastor who serves Pastor MattGod's people in the beautiful islands of Hawaii, I am often asked about the proper usage and respect for pastors of the Aloha clerical shirt and the Aloha stole. Below is a response to a lay ministry student from Concordia University. Her request, "A question has arisen regarding the vestments worn by pastors in the Lutheran Church. Would it be acceptable for a pastor to wear a flowery Hawaiian shirt for a worship service?"

A pastor is called to serve the congregation and represent Christ, speak Christ's words and proclaim the Law and the Gospel to the lost and the saved alike. Much of what is proclaimed is through our words (preaching God's Word), however our vestments (coverings) also convey particular messages regarding the relationship between God's Word and the church year, sin and forgiveness, and both traditional and contemporary symbols of the Christian faith. The coverings that the pastor is clothed signify the truths of God through His Church. Customarily the church has impressed that pastor were to wear black Communionunderclothes (cassock, clerical shirts, dress slacks and shoes) to signify the darkness of sin that covers the entire world and infects all mankind. The black clothes are not to emphasize the style of the pastor, but of the reminder of sin, and that the pastor is also filled with the same sin sickness. The white tab at the throat reminds us of the pure grace and hope of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Practically speaking, the uniform of the pastor conveys an attitude of "don't look at me as anything more than a sinner like you but listen to the Word that is proclaimed from the lips of God's servant". Within the setting of worship, additional clothes are added, such as a white robe covering all of the black, as a reminder that in baptism we have been clothed with the righteousness of Jesus Christ (Galatians 3, Romans 6, Revelation 7). Stoles or chasubles are also worn to convey the message of the church year and the yolk (tremendous responsibility as undershepherd) that Christ has placed upon the pastor to minister to Jesus' flock in their time and culture.

As a pastor, I am responsible to bring Christ to the community where I am called to serve, learning their culture, language, and customs, and (where they do not contradict the scriptures) making them my own so that I might proclaim Jesus Christ within that community. I grew up as the son of a Lutheran pastor in California (5th generation Lutheran pastor), where most pastors wore the traditional black, grey, or white clerical shirts. Each congregation had it's own vestments and matching paraments, and within each community a pastor would wearCongregation what was common to that congregation. Some churches would have the tradition of a cassock and surplus, others merely an alb, while still others would have differing styles of the robes adapted to fit with clericals colored according to the season of the church year (ie. purple, blue, green, red, gold). The number and style of vestments may also change due to the ecclesiastical format of worship and during particular months of the year, due to the temperature and weather. Also, services away from the church (ie. Hospitals, funeral homes, building dedications, etc.) would usually not require the wearing of robes.

I have served congregations in several states, and each had its own unique style of formal wear for the pastors. One congregation I served in Missouri had the tradition of a cassock and surplus and clerical shirts according to the season of the church year. Another congregation I served, also in Missouri, wore no robes but a flat collar black knit shirt with a simple black suit. A congregation in south Texas had two traditions, Communionwhere one worshipping community had the tradition of covering the pastor with a white alb and a shirt and tie underneath, while the other worshipping community was merely a simple suit with no alb. While in Texas I began the practice of wearing ostrich dress boots with my Sunday attire. A congregation in Nevada had the tradition of albs and chasubles with the Christian icons, as well as stoles for special occasions (ie. wedding, LWML, Holy Communion). The tradition of our congregation in Hawaii is church year colored "Aloha" clericals and stoles (see below), while the blended and traditional services include the tradition of the alb and the Haipule services does not include the alb.

Aloha wear in Hawaii is formal wear and is worn most often at festive and celebratory occasions. Since every Sunday morning is a celebration of the resurrection of Jesus Christ it is appropriate within our community to wear aloha clerical shirts. However, during specific seasons of the church year, the aloha cleric changes. The intent is not to distract from the message of sin and the pure Word of God being preached, but to emphasize the theme and reverence of that particular Sunday morning and our worship service. Some who have not lived within this Congregationcommunity may not understand the meaning and usage of aloha wear, and may even chastise it for being "too worldly". Others may wear the aloha clericals for personal flare or style, which may also cause problems, especially by one who dedicates his life to serving the Lord and His people. But I would suggest that for those who minister to a community where aloha wear is held as formal festive wear, that wearing such clothing is very appropriate. And just as my black ostrich boots are still a part of my usual Sunday attire, as a reminder of my service and unity to the body of Christ in Texas and my chasuble from the people of God's kingdom in Nevada, and my clergy crosses from God's redeemed in Saint Louis and Hawaii, I cherish the calling that our Lord has given to me through the people of Saint Mark. They have become a part of me and I of them so that I might continue to shepherd them in mission to save others through the preaching of Jesus Christ, and Him crucified for our sins. Therein lies the reason and purpose of wearing aloha clericals in worship to our God and Savior.

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Advent Season:

Blue is the color of hope and anticipation. The symbols of Advent are that of messengers (angels) of God in muumuus playing ukuleles and proclaiming the birth of the Christ to the shepherds on the hillside watching over their flocks, a quilted gold star shining over the manger where the Savior of the whole world would be laid, and a cross above an orb representing the manner in which the Christ would redeem mankind.
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Christmas/Easter Season:

White is the color of celebration and victory. The symbols of the mountains and redwood trees represent the place where the Word of God is preached (images of Northern Nevada), the cup and the host along with the grapes and the grain of the sacrament of Holy Communion. Since the Lord's supper is a meal where His victory over sin, death, and the devil is applied to us, it is representative of not only the birth of Jesus but also His resurrection as the beginning and end of His earthly ministry to us.

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Lenten Season:

Purple is the color of royalty, reminiscent of Jesus entry into Jerusalem in humiliation as the Son of God to save all. The cross is the symbol of Jesus sacrifice on Good Friday, the haliconia is the symbol of the palms and flowers of Hawaii, and the symbols of Holy Commuion are reminiscent of the events of Maundy Thursday and the celebration of the Lord's Passover through the new covenant in His body and blood.
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Ash Wednesday / Good Friday:

Black is the color of death. The symbols of the red crosses and the simple nature of this stole reflect the darkness of death that is a result of sin.
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Day of Pentecost:

Red is the color of the fires of Pentecost and the blood of martyrs. The symbol of the descending dove represents the Holy Spirit of God and the flames represent the tongues of the Holy Spirit empowering Christs' disciples to go out into the world making disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, and teaching them all that Jesus Christ has commanded.
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Season of Pentecost:

Green is the color of life and growth. The symbols of Hawaiian life emphasize the power of God through the diversity of His original creation and how He continues to preserve His physical creation and His spiritual re-creation by Water and the Spirit of His church. The symbols are of the many types of God's glorious creation in Hawaii.

If you have any questions regarding specific traditions or practices within the Lutheran Church or of Saint Mark Lutheran Church and School, please contact pastor Matt.

Our Mission: "To Extend the love and care of Jesus Christ to all people."
45-725 Kamehameha Highway, Kaneohe, Hawaii 96744-- (808) 247-4565-- LCMS