The following is from the fifteenth installment of my bulletin insert series:
Cassock, Surplice, and Preaching Bands - These vestments are more closely related to the type of vestments that John Wesley wore during worship.
The cassock is a black neck-to-ankle attire that, at one time, were the ordinary street clothes for clergy. It may be worn (without the clerical collar) by lay persons taking part in worship.
As “street clothes,” the cassock is covered by the surplice (SUR.plis). The white surplice is a medieval version of the alb. (You will recall that the alb was the subject of the first in this series.) The white surplice/alb recalls the practice of Christians in the first century, when they clothed those emerging from the waters of baptism with a white tunic or alb. Therefore, the surplice/alb is a reminder of our baptism, a symbol of purity and a symbol of the resurrection. Again, just as with the regular alb, the cassock and surplice may be worn by clergy and (without the clerical collar or stoles) by lay persons leading worship.
Preaching Bands or tabs are white starched neckwear in the shape of an inverted V worn with a cassock by preachers. Eventually, the two bands were said, by some, to represent the law and the gospel, or the Old and New Testaments. (All of John Wesley’s portraits depict him wearing the clerical collar and preaching bands).
The cassock, surplice, stoles and preaching bands are traditional Anglican vestments (though those in other traditions wear them as well). As a priest in the Church of England, this would have been John Wesley’s attire during worship, thus, it is also appropriate attire for Methodists.
Information gathered from the following resources:
Wall, John N. A Dictionary for Episcopalians. Cambridge/Boston, MA. Cowley Publications. 2000.