Christian Worldview in Decline
Religious Addiction

What Does a Clerical Collar Say?


Okay... so Pavel (Addai) and I are sitting in front of the fireplace last night, talking up a storm about the Church and postmodernity and culture and...

We eventually begin talking about how John Wesley, an Anglican priest, probably wore a clerical collar -- something that many ministers within my own denomination (Free Methodist) still wore over 100 years later. And when I was musing over the idea of wearing a clerical collar myself, Pavel encouraged me to do so (are we surprised?) saying something like, "when you wear a clerical collar it says to people, 'the kingdom of God is open for business'." I guess I had never quite thought of it that way before.

So...what do you think about that? When people see someone wearing a clerical collar out in public, what does it communicate?


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What does a clerical collar say? "I wear wierd clothes!" :)

Sorry - I couldn't resist! I actually usually feel a sense of connection and warm-fuzzy's when I see someone in a clerical collar, or nuns in robes - but I'm not sure that I feel any freer to approach them - that's much more affected by their attitude and the expression on their face... I usually feel kinda intimidated, actually...

Did you read Real Live Preacher's piece about his "denim priest shirt"? here's the link:

Hope you and Pavel are having (or had) a good time!

I think it is a good thing. Our priests not only wear collars, but cassocks and a cross (the standard "street" garb of an Orthodox clergyman). Being visible in a set apart has always been the tradition in Christendom. .... Just like police, firefighters, etc wear their uniform, so should clergy. Especially since their job is a 24/7 one!

Chris -- you're great! LOL! But I think your dead-on regarding people's attitude and expressions on their faces. The clothing may draw the first milliseconds of attention, but there had better be something else to hold their attention and dispell their apprehensions (well, at least that's what I'm thinking).

Karl -- Pavel told me that wearing a pectal (sp?) cross with the clerical collar is like "turbocharging" the effect. lol. Think he's right?

As influenced as I am by the baptistic tradition, I've always lumped all of the "priestly vestiments" together under Scriptures like Matthew 23:8-12:

"But you are not to be called 'Rabbi,' for you have only one Master and you are all brothers. And do not call anyone on earth 'father,' for you have one Father, and he is in heaven. Nor are you to be called 'teacher,' for you have one Teacher, the Christ. The greatest among you will be your servant. For whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted."

Your post made me realize how poorly aimed (and, in the end, judgmental) my opinion was, Chris. Of course, if I'd only looked more deeply into my own experience, I would have understood that much sooner. I have often fallen into pride without the need for any vestiment whatsoever.

My own feelings on seeing someone in a collar are well-described by Chris above: "a sense of connection and warm-fuzzy's." Is our experience normative? As a Spiritual Guide, is this what I want people to feel when they see me?

In re: to Matt 23....we have to understand this passage in context as well as contrasting it with St. Paul statement in 1 Cor. 4:15 when he says, "For if you were to have countless tutors in Christ, yet you would not have many fathers; for in Christ Jesus I became your father through the gospel." Obviously Jesus is talking about something deeper than the literal reading leads us to...

Yes, Chris..."turbocharged" is pretty right on! Nothing grabs the attention of people in the supermarket as that of an Orthodox priest in full dress!

Karl (and Daniel),
Here's another thought regarding Matt.23:8...

" is altogether likely that the Jamnian period witnessed the word's [rabbi] evolution into a title. Our verse, then, is responsive; it is a Christian reaction to a late first-century development in Judaism (W.D. Davies, Matthew, vol 3; The International Critical Commentary, Edinburg: T&T Clark, p. 275; italics mine).

Perhaps an inappropriate use of such terms was already prevalent during Jesus' ministry. The "reponsive" rather than "directive" angle is interesting, although admittedly, I'm not super convinced by it.

Karl -- Pavel told me that wearing a pectal (sp?) cross with the clerical collar is like "turbocharging" the effect. lol. Think he's right?

Well consider this DP. I understand your area is heavily hispanic, almost being as many Latinos as Anglos. The collar is great for luring the nominal ones (who have mostly left the church but feel like they should come back). Most of the people that are very negative against it, I think are going to inclined towards your Southern Baptist, Calvary Chapel or similar church in your area (they will also be put off by your ancient future use of icons, liturgy etc.)

Also as Adler pointed out when he had his revelation of using the collar in Jail (for his work in Operation Rescue). He realized at the time he was not treat with respect by the police and other authorities because he did not have a uniform. And noticed that to the opposite that the Catholic priest that also particapted with the protest was treated much differently (much more respectively). At the time he believed God was speaking to him in jail that he actually created people to "respond to symbols" and the collar was such a symbol. It was at that time he felt called to take it up. (It was only a few years later that he stated the Charismatic Episcopal Church).

You're probably right about general reaction among Hispanics. The Adler story was interesting, but I'm wondering... since the culture in which we're living is increasingly post-christian, one could easily expect positive reactions to "Christian symbols" to fall off rather sharply. Yet, on the otherhand, America (in contrast to other developed countries) is experiencing an amazing rise in "spirituality" (generically, that is). Perhaps this will sustain the evocative power of certain "Christian" symbols. Any thoughts (anyone)?

I do believe that the increasingly post-christian culture in America is responding less positively to "Christian symbols". But I don't think they are the same symbols we're talking about here. They react to modern/boomer/consumer/seeker symbols. These words for example, are christian symbols to them. Church yard marquis with cutesy cheesy happy sentences, televangelists, etc. I don't sense that reaction to pre-modern symbols and traditions. Maybe a waning reverence, for they have been abused and have lost their significance. At the moment, I think that these are the things that will attract attention of a hungry culture back to the source of fulfillment. Someone who actually means something by wearing a symbol, a religion that invites us to something that is actually different from what we have right now. That's something I'd be attracted to.

hmm - it seems like (at least around me), we are still riding the wave of an increased interest in and acceptance of symbols. I see this within my church - where 20 years ago there was a rebellion against the percieved emptiness of many religious symbols and traditions, and now there is the whole ancient/future influence going on... so maybe this acceptance of traditional Christian symbolism is still growning in the general, unchurched population as well.

But if, as you say, we are heading into a more and more post-Christian society... what comes to mind for me is the conversation Marcus (Nuos) at theOoze had about "tolerance" in Canada, and his thoughts that tolerance were not at all the same as love and acceptance... that's my first reaction, that maybe we will see tolerance in society for someone wearing a clerical collar, etc.., but maybe that very tolerance will more easily allow someone to keep their distance with an "I'm OK, you're OK" kinda attitude... Maybe it all comes down to the state of people's hearts, and their personal encounters and relationships...

Hey, Rod - I didn't see your post before I wrote, we posted at the same time! Kinda interesting that while we saw the issue of symbols a little differently - I think we had a similar conclusion...

You're probably right about general reaction among Hispanics. The Adler story was interesting, but I'm wondering... since the culture in which we're living is increasingly post-christian, one could easily expect positive reactions to "Christian symbols" to fall off rather sharply.

Well I've spoken too to folks who both didnot use the collar, but later did. And they also verify that when relating to instutions etc. The collar helps. I speak especially about hospitals, pulling over the side of the road and praying and minisering to a person in a car accident, or other disaster. The police and other authorites don't often treat an uniformed pastor with respect, but they repond well to a clergyman likewise dressed in clerical black shirt and collar.

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