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Hallo again to all.

We're in the midst of what seems a cruelly dark moment in the world: a dreadful attack on the Anglican church in Peshawar, Pakistan, a murderous rampage at a shopping mall in Nairobi, Kenya, all piled on bleak situations in the Middle East, Africa, and God knows where else. It's easy to despair. But we cannot and will not. Pray for peace, hold on to hope, and thank God for those who will work tirelessly to bring comfort and love in the midst of darkness and hate.

All Saints Church in Peshawar held its first service on 27 December 1883, St John's Day. The Bishop of Calcutta, the Right Reverend Ralph Edward Johnson, wasn't able to be present, as he was travelling elsewhere in his large jurisdiction. But he no doubt visited that parish church many times in his episcopacy of more than 20 years. He was a physically large man, with an impressive bearing. He had been Archdeacon of Warrington before being appointed to Calcutta and, by all repute, was a fine administrator (rare enough amongst bishops) with abundant energy and 'an iron constitution'. We have no doubt, no doubt at all, that when Bishop Johnson visited the churches in his diocese, he was wearing gaiters, part of the usual episcopal costume at the time.

Gaiters! How long has it been since we wrote the word. Many years ago, when we were younger with more time on our hands, we decided that what the world needed — well, at least the Anglican world — was a full-scale investigative report on this now long-lost article of clerical dress. We ploughed deep into history for reports of clerics wearing gaiters, from whatever sources we could find. We sent out a call to Anglicans Online readers for memories of gaiter-wearing clergymen. We turned to search engines for any scrap of gaiter-sighting they might unearth for us. After several weeks of hard work, on a Sunday night, way back in the year of Our Lord 2000, we unleashed 'Through the Years with Gaiters' to the world.

And we thought we were done. Not that gaiters were boring us (well, a little perhaps), but as far as we were concerned, they were firmly tucked into the glass cabinets of history. From time to time through the years, someone reading the gaiters report would comment on some aspect of the study, sometimes thanking us or occasionally correcting a typo. But gaiters were dead.

Gaiters! At St David's Cathedral in Wales, 2011Then behold! Last week we received an email from a reader, who pointed us to a 2011 event in the Church in Wales, documented with a photo. And — wait for it, people! — the Right Reverend J. Wyn Evans, Bishop of the Diocese of St Davids, is wearing gaiters. The event was not, we repeat, not a costume party. The bishop in question hasn't been rummaging about in the dressing-up box. (Well, we assume he has not. But perhaps that's the only place to acquire gaiters now, unless rumours about Wippells still making them on a bespoke basis are true. The firm of John Lobb make something they describe as a 'metal spring leather legging', which might do in a pinch.)

However Bishop Evans got his gaiters, he is indeed wearing them. In this complex and often callous world, such a little thing makes us smile. Now we'll freely admit that gaiters didn't hold the Church of England together in the nineteenth century, but 'how beautiful were the feet' they encased as deacons, priests, and bishops went out from England to share the Gospel. We may find it delightful to think of George Augustus Selwyn living roughly in New Zealand, getting round in his boat to the little churches in his diocese, and speaking Maori — and doing so in gaiters. This seems to us a wonderfully Anglican combination.

We cannot bring back gaiters nor the world in which they were an ordinary part of ecclesiastical dress. But we can rejoice when, contrary to all possible expectations, they appear. We hope that will make you smile, too.

See you next week.

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All of us at Anglicans Online

22 September 2013

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