Thursday, August 04, 2005

Why Doesn't Anyone Wear Their Clerical Collar Anymore?

Living in the Cleveland area, and especially in Parma, due to the high number of Roman Catholics, I get a lot of strange looks whenever I wear my clerical collar. I have gotten used to the standard greeting, "Hello, Father." Most of the time, I don't correct them because I am a father- that is of 4 wonderful boys (see picture on my blog). It is especially humorous in public places when I have it on and my family is with me. What is disturbing to me, however, is the number of pastors today who don't wear the collar. I wonder why this is. I certainly hope that it is not because they are ashamed of their calling. Wearing the collar reminds me of my calling. For the first couple of years of my ministry, I didn't wear it, except on Sunday morning. Not that I would forget what I was doing, but when I wear my collar during the week, I am reminded of the seriousness of the office of the ministry. The criticism is that those of us who wear their collars, all the time, take themselves too seriously. Some have even asked me if I have clerical pajamas. I would argue that those who don't wear theirs take themselves and the office that they hold too lightly. The pastor who was here as the vacancy pastor reminded me of the symbolism behind the clerical collar. I think it fits; so I will share it. The pastor wears his black clerical collar for two reasons. First, the black shows to the world that the pastor too is a sinner, dead in his trespasses and sin. By himself, a pastor is nothing. But, secondly, as a called and ordained servant of the Word, the words that come out of his mouth should be as white as freshly fallen snow. When people see that collar, it reminds them that God is present and pastors are His representatives. Yes, some people will feel uncomfortable with it. Pastors who wear their collars may make some people nervous. Others will be turned off because of the individual problems with the Roman Catholic Church. Most people would agree that our society, and our church has lost a sense of what it means to be reverent. So much in our society is dumbed-down. Pastors who wear their collars remind the world that there is nothing wrong with tradition as long as it leads people to Jesus. That is what the office of the Ministry is all about- leading people to Jesus. Most people don't have a problem with a soldier or policeman who wears his uniform. When people see the officer in their uniform, it reminds them of what they are all about. Should not pastors stand out in the crowd? Should not a pastor remind those around that God is present? I believe that wearing a clerical collar does just that. Something to think about.


At 5:55 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Recalling that the white collar on black is symbolic of the Word of God proceeding from a sinner's vocal cords, it is easy to see why the contemporary crowd doesn't wear clerical collars anymore. First, the Word of God doesn't proceed from their vocal cords, not from contemporary fad-driven messages anyway. Luke 24.47 has Jesus instructing the preaching of repentance and the forgiveness of sins. If the contemporary crowd is "connecting people to Jesus," it's not this Jesus. Second, they're not going to remind anyone that they're sinners, not even themselves because that's just not a "positive" borrow a phrase from Robert Schuller. These tendancies, oddly, never kept ELCA and Roman Catholics from wearing clerical collars though.

At 5:01 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

My Lutheran Pastor doesn't wear his much becuse he is very evangelical and part of the priesthood of all believers.

At 2:27 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

What do you mean "correct them?" "Father" is a perfectly appropriate title for a Lutheran pastor ordained to the office public of ministry.

At 4:50 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

It seems that often people make a blurred distinction between the "priesthood of all believers" and the "ordained priesthood." The collar represents the duties of an ordained vocation. The notion of a priesthood of all believers does not make all the faithful into stewards of the mysteries of Word and Sacrament. That is part of the three fold ministerium (ordained priesthood, diaconate, and episcopacy), which Lutherans uphold. And yes, we call our Lutheran pastor "father." On Luther's deathbed, he was addressed for his last confession as "Reverend Father." It is very American, and not Lutheran at all, to avoid the use of this title for our spiritual shepherds.

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I wear a clergy shirt now - and it has opened doors for conversations I never would have had without the clericals.


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