Define plain white dress

The church wear of the deaconesses and pastor's wives of the protestant churches here in Micronesia are traditionally a plain white dress. When the Protestant missionaries introduced Christianity in the 1850s, they brought with them the asceticism of the Boston Congregational churches of their time. Simple churches painted white, often lacking in both internal and external adornment. Clothing was to be simple, black and white, nothing too colorful or too bold.

Kenye, above,wears a plain cotton dress with the traditional long sleeves. To this day the deaconesses and wives of pastor's dress in white each and every Sunday. The complication is that the other women of the church get to wear the brightest and "shiniest" new floral fabrics, colorful dresses that say, "I have a new dress!" This year a new fabric appeared on the island, a plain white fabric with silvery-white sequins.

The sequins diffract light and thus sparkle in the colors of the rainbow in the sun. Technically the dress itself is still colorless - counting the sequins as being essentially without color. Yet the deaconess or pastor's wife can still sparkle in her new dress on Easter along with all the other women of the church.

Comments

  1. Dana,
    As both a deaconess and a pastor's wife, I found this blog entry about the white dress very interesting! Regarding your other entry for Good Friday, who are the women leading the tenebrae service? Are they deaconesses or the choir or some other special group?
    Deaconess Cheryl D. Naumann, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA
    Please see my website at www.deaconesshistory.org

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  2. The women are members of the Kosrae Congregational Church Women's Christian Association. Traditionally they meet every Friday evening for worship service. The group is women only and is led solely by women, the only unit of the Kosrae Congregational church with this distinction. I do not know the history of the group per se, but letters from Reverend Benjamin Gallen Snow written between 1852 and 1860 or thereabouts indicate that his wife Lydia Vose Buck Snow met with the women of Lelu islet every Friday evening. This seems to me to be the most likely original spark for the group.

    Given that prior to 1852 there was likely no identifiable "women's group" structure in pre-contact Kosraen society, WCA might well be considered the first group empowering women to meet as women without the presence of men.

    WCA membership is limited to women in "good standing" in the church. To this day this includes attendance and conformance to church membership rules. This includes no smoking, no drinking, and no chewing of betel nut. There is also the expectation that these women will lead a morning prayer service in their homes Monday to Saturday if their husband does not do so himself.

    WCA also visits those who are ill both at home and in hospital, as well as visiting those in prison to provide worship service and comfort. The group sings in the traditional hymns acapella in style of their forebearers.

    There is some further information on Reverend Snow at: http://www.comfsm.fm/~dleeling/kosrae/benjamin_snow.html

    Although currently out of stock, there is a wonderful book on the history of the Kosrae church be Elden M. Buck. See: http://www.bookshawaii.net/pacific-islands/island-of-angels.html which is where I first learned about the Friday evening services of Lydia Buck. I would note that as far as I know, Elden is not related to Lydia. Elden currently resides in Hawaii and worked on Kosrae in the 1950s and early 1960s running the missionary school at Mwot. He and his wife continued to serve in Kosrae and Marshalls, with his wife assisting with the new translation of the bible until her passing a few years ago.

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