Joanna, a Mennonite pastor, writes in the Monday Extra on the RevGals about choosing a cross each Sunday as her “liturgical mantle” in a non-liturgical tradition, and about wearing a wooden one on a worn cord throughout Lent as one simple Lenten practice.
It made me think about Lent last year. I grew up in a tradition that did not champion wearing of crosses, though they weren’t forbidden, so it has been an adult practice for me to occasionally wear crosses. Last year for Lent I wore a cross every day. I was teaching a class at the local state university during winter quarter last year, as I am now, and that added a layer to wearing a cross every day. The class was Medieval and Early Modern Romances. It is a very pluralistic university. It has a largely Latino population, but also many Asian students, along with some white and a few–very few, for what that continues to say–African American students. Teaching medieval literature is a balance act to begin with, as there is so much Christian religious content. I am fairly adept at discussing the religious content objectively–my training is almost entirely the public school setting–but as I wore that cross day after day, I began to wonder what I was saying and what it was saying. As we talked about King Arthur and his knights and the heavy, heavy religious symbolism and outright literalism in the tales, it became ponderous and a little cumbersome. I wondered what statement I was really making. I kept it up, and I think it was okay. No one remarked on it in class or in evaluations*, so I may have been the only one to notice but I wondered. This year I have worn my crosses off and on, and I’m not so concerned, but with Shakespeare the religious content exists–and I thought about it more during Merchant of Venice and will during Measure for Measure–but it is not quite so central to the class.
This was the only cross I had at the time. I have a lovely small, elegant two-toned cross that I have once again lost, and I bought the Ecclesia cross Easter week. So I wore this museum store cross every day last Lent. I had to think about what I was wearing each day and skipped some of the patterns and colors I would wear with a plainer or silver cross.
*The only time religion has been an issue in my teaching evaluations was when I taught at the local Baptist college while I was teaching public high school. One question was something along the lines of whether the instructor expressed their Christian faith in class. The first time I taught there, I got totally dinged on that question. I was too used to keeping things separate. After that, I always incorporated lessons/texts into the syllabus that allowed us to speak of faith matters. My friend who teaches math there begins his classes with prayer.