Column: A life in uniform

The Ven Michael Everitt, Archdeacon of Lancaster
The Ven Michael Everitt, Archdeacon of Lancaster

As a priest I wear a uniform most of the time, so when I don’t it can be quite fun.

It causes people to comment that I ‘look different’ and sometimes I can see them stumbling when thinking about what to call me. One of my brothers, Anthony, is also a priest and this summer I am going to his church in Bristol to preach.

This will be the first time since he was ordained four years ago that both of us will be ‘in uniform’ together. I fear we will look like mirror images of each other. There will be no questioning that we are both Everitts, or that we are both priests.

Facial recognition programs on social media will no doubt confuse us, just as they confuse my son and me.

It is easy to see family resemblances; just as it is easy to make assumptions based on uniforms. In a similar way we often make connections or assumptions based on visual information.

This month I have issued a challenge to the church I serve and that is quite simply: “How would someone else know your faith?”

Some religions and cultures, or in my case, roles within a religion, have distinctive dress codes and outward signs.

However, my robes or my uniform do not automatically show the things I hold dear. Jesus, in discussing what people are like, said that it is ‘by their fruits they are known’ while St Paul wrote, ‘the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control’.

These are not external garments you can ‘put on’; rather internal virtues lived out. These characteristics are what should mark someone out and for Christians should be the strong family resemblance they all show; a similar trait that indicates who they are.

As they are internal dynamics it means we can work on those areas where perhaps we are not so strong. Not dissimilar to training muscles. So, if we need to show more patience we can work on it.

I don’t think I am different when in my uniform than when I am not. It is more like a family similarity - not of appearance but of attitude.

When I see my brother I will be seeing Anthony and not his title or his role, no matter what the two of us are wearing.