Love, Humility and Reconciliation
If We Are the Body

What Does a Clerical Collar Say, part 3

Clerical_collar_7A couple of recent posts on my last installment on this topic has had me thinking some more about wearing a clerical collar.  Here's what Father Deacon Raphael (fdr) had to say:

We Orthodox have a slightly different take (of course).

First, the "collar" is not really Orthodox. Some Orthodox jurisdictions disdain it completely, others have embraced it, but most see it as an alternative to traditional clergy attire. The Riassa or cassock....usually black.

2nd, there is no "option." We are supposed to wear it at all times, because we are always a deacon, a presbyter, a bishop. It is not a way to get people to notice you....although they do. Its an obedience. And while it often has the advantages talked about in this post and comments, it has its disadvantages. You can never just "blend in."

...Bottom line, even though I work a secualr job (which has its own uniform), I strive to obediently wear my cassock (or collar) at all times in the community. I can never forget I am a servant in the house of the Lord....pretty humbling thought.

This hit me pretty hard.  It's the thought that a clerical collar points to one's calling and responsibility -- something we can't "turn on" or "turn off" as we choose.

I wonder how often evangelicals (like me) are glad for the relative annonymity we so often live in?  I for one have certainly been guilty in the past of not wanting, any distinguishing marks on my vehicle (e.g. decal, license plate frame) alerting people to my faith and profession (I say this with shame).  Choosing to wear a clerical collar only during hospital visits or funerals (mentioned in the comments to previous posts) is one thing; but those who choose to wear the collar regularly choose to forfeit their annonymity on a daily basis (or at least whenever they're in public).  I respect that.  It has me pondering the commitment I may need to make if I choose to don the collar.

What are your thoughts?


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Interesting post. I was reading Bruggemann's "Cadences of Home" last night, and he was writing about this, except that the context was Israel in exile, and the "collar" was the symbol of circumcision. Circumcision took on a very deep significance for Israelites in exile, it became a constant reminder of who they really were - that in the midst of exile, surrounded by Babylonian religion, authority, culture, society etc., the Israelites could live and work 'among' the Babylonians, but never truly 'be' one of them. Of course the symbol is rather patriarchal, and quite less obvious than a clerical collar, but the point is the same - it was a way for us to acknowledge that we are 'among', but that we are not 'of' the kingdom around us. I am a pastor; I don't wear a collar (never will) because I think the collar has lost its veracity as a symbol (except maybe for the wearer - although that might be the point). Bruggemann suggests that baptism is the symbol equivalent of circumcision for Christians. Even though the Babylonians cannot see it, it is a marker that tells us and our witnesses that we are no longer citizens of the empire, but belong to the Kingdom of God.

Ok, here is yet another story from our archives...
A few years back, Farmington New Mexico made a gallent attempt at "unity" as illustrated in the Transformation Videos. There was a Christmas Party for local pastors and their spouses, held at one of the large, nondenominational charasmatic churches and the guest speaker was an "apostalic" leader of this nondenominational group. There were in attendance, Anglo, Hisapnic, Native American, Baptists, Methodists, AOG, and Father Carl, the local Episcoplian priest. The speaker was impressed with the gathering, and especially interested in Father Carl.
As he got up to deliever the "message" he made a comment about Carl and his collar, at which point Father Carl got up, took off his collar and placed it around the neck of the speaker. "There, now you are ready to deliver an Apostalic message" The crowd roared!

Thanks for sharing this viewpoint. I hadn't considered enough the "heat" it brings to the constant wearer -- too mindful of the flip side of the issue. I'm way left (maybe too much so) on the "set apart" continuum of the representative ministry.

I have considered this, and it is something I am a bit concerned with, since my Order does have a habit. I have sort of looked on this idea with a bit of dread for the exact reason listed above. I sort of like not sticking out in a crowd, and if I want to be less than loving or Christlike I can without bringing much shame upon the Name of the Lord. Not so if I was in habit. Fortunately I have time to get used to the idea. :)

Part I of this post is what gogled me to Paradoxology in the first place, so it is interesting that today, just days after purchasing a clerical shirt and collar online, I find myself posting here!

I'm an Associate Oastor (but not paid staff -- I'm an RN for a local hospital for that) and I'm preaching on 10th July.

I'm planning on wearning the shirt/collar with blue jeans -- maybe even wear jeas that are overly faded and have a hole in the knee...

I'd do that to model two things:

(1) We are all priests and, as such, set apart
(2) We are all still "in" the world

A Haiku:

many lines are blurred
both/and kisses either/or
tension is my home

I'm preaching on "Public Worship as Spiritual Formation" frm Brian McLaren's talk at Emergent -- we are "in" church, but we are also "in" the world. How do we grow? Can we be both fully "in" the world, but "of" the Kingdom? YES!

Also -- I'm a volunteer chaplain for the local PD, so wearing a collar quickly identifies me when in that role. (otherwise my crew-cut, pierced, tattood appearance might not be well received, sadly!)

Oh yeah -- the clerical shirt I bought is short sleeved, so my wrist tatoo will be visible. =O)

~ Keith

Aside from being a Associate *P*astor and RN, I am apparently also a poor proofreader...

...and a tad insecure about it! =O)

~ Keith

Hey, great comments so far everyone! I'm totally enjoying this. Keep it up!

I have a friend who was a church planter, volunteer police chaplain, and construction worker. He wore skater shoes, shorts, and politically incorrect T shirts to his church, but while on duty as the chaplain he wore the clerical collar. It was pretty amazing to see this big guy, with full sleeve tattoos, completely shaved head, and several facial piercings with the short sleeve black button up clerical shirt with the little white collar on it. I thought it was an amazing testimony, because anyone who spent more than two minutes with him would feel the love of Christ oozing out of every pore of his body!

grace and peace, jimmy

Glad to see another post on this topic, DP. I think for many young evangelicals, the WWJD bracelet served the same purpose in the 1990s. I (for some reason) still wear mine at all times, and it has served the function you described, to good effect.

Dude..maybe try wearing one for a week, see what happens? Then you can blog about your experience and give us some firsthand feedback. Hee heee!

What do you think gang?

When I preach on 10th July, it will be my first time wearing the collar -- I'll be sure to let you all know how that goes...but I think Matt's challenge is a good one -- what do you say Chris?

~ Keith

Having reread my comments, I have to clarify a little....lest anyone think they could always find me walking around Niagara Falls, NY in my cassock. Ideally that would be the case. But in reality, I work my job in the police Dept., wearing the uniform of that vocation, as well as wearing shorts and t-shirt when I coach little league.

It is a struggle, but feel convicted that I should keep the "exceptions" to a minimum. Usually when I do, its out of compassion to my wife and kids, who would like to "blend in" once and as a rule I don't wear "the garb" when I am on vacation....although I think it better to do so. (I never fail to get in spiritual conversations when people recognize me as a minister of some sort.

ONe further reason that I like the Cassock over the collar, is that it is easier to throw on "over the civvies." If I am working in the yard, but want to run out and make a quick visit on "Mrs. Mokhiber," its a lot easier then putting on black pants and shirt and collar....

But my priest observed the other day, that I seem to be less of a traditionalist in hot weather!!

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