In worship, most ordained United Methodist pastors wear a stole, usually with an alb or pulpit robe. In Roman times, the alb was a common garment worn in everyday life. It has connections as a baptismal garment, and therefore it may be worn by both clergy and laity when leading worship. The pulpit gown (usually black, but in more recent times commercially available in other colors) is connected to academic gowns worn in the medieval universities. It communicates gravity, learned bearing, and presence. The pulpit gown gained popularity in the twentieth century among those Protestant groups recovering their Reformation connections. The alb came to popular use in the late twentieth century in the post-Vatican II period, when Protestant churches reached back to early church liturgical roots and the emerging ecumenical consensus about worship.
The stole is a sign of ordination, and it is placed on the shoulders of elders and deacons at ordination. The stole should be worn only by the ordained clergy. The new provisional services for ordination suggest the following:
For deacons — a stole over the left shoulder and fastened under the right arm at the hip.
For elders — a stole yoked at the back of the neck and hung straight down from the shoulders.
Stoles are of varied widths and colors and textures. The colors change with the liturgical colors of the church year.
Daniel Benedict is retired from the Discipleship Ministries.