Tuesday, October 12, 2010
Should ordained ministers wear clerical collars?
At one time of course, the question wouldn't even be asked - after all - what sort of ordained minister doesn't wear a clerical collar? Are they ashamed of the gospel, of their calling, of the Church?
Nowadays it is said that the collar 'gets in the way' of ordinary conversation - that it inhibits evangelism because people wont talk to ministers in collars.
Apparently it's not 'fresh' or "cool' or even sensible to wear a clerical collar at a family service or youth service, school assembly, cafe church, messy church etc etc...
Collars have come to be associated with all things stuffy, high-brow, liturgical, and - well - clerical!
It's starting to boarder on the predictable, isn't it.
Could the fact that the minister has started to wear light chinos and a polo shirt with a sweatshirt tied loosely around the neck or waist, be the first hint that congregation has that a fresh expression of Church may be in the offing?
Is the ministers preference for jeans to be understood as a preference for youth ministry?
Does it automatically follow that a cassock and collar means bells and smells in the service?
Isn't this all rather a shallow view of ordained ministry?
I made a deliberate choice to wear a clerical collar as a reminder to both myself and those that I meet that You are not absent from this world, and that my life cannot be lived without You God.
I choose to be marked out as different by what I wear because I own that by your grace and the Church's acceptance of your calling, I AM different - I am ordained.
It wasn't getting ordained that made me different, ordination is, in that respect, just the confirmation of difference. You called me to dare to be different, to be set-apart to proclaim your gospel in word and deed with all that I am. Your calling was not just to minister to the saved, or to those it was safe to minister to, but to be a light on a hill, a public unashamed, in-your-face statement that YOU are here for whoever needs you.
I cannot tell how many conversations have not happened because I was wearing a clerical collar - but I can testify to the number of amazing conversations I have had. Conversations in hospital waiting rooms, airport lounges, on trains and on buses, in the hairdressers and cinema! I haven't had to do anything but be accessible. The collar has provided the prompt, given the permission, begged the question, created the link..acted as a means of your prevenient grace.
From my experience, I think I would want to say to those who insist that the collar 'puts people off' that perhaps what is off-putting' may have more to do with the person than with the collar!
As our Western world grows increasingly more secular, surely it becomes ever more important for the Gospel to be seen as a life-choice not just a private Sunday habit? Whatever else can be said about it, the fact remains that when it is worn in the pub or the car park, the supermarket or the cinema, the train or the restaurant, the clerical collar does serve as a reminder that there are some who believe, who commit their whole life to that belief, and who choose not to hide that fact.