Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Uniformly

Yesterday (9/14) was the second anniversary of my ordination. It's hard to believe it's been two years since all those hands and prayers pressed down on me. I remember other pastors talking about how heavy that felt on their ordination. It didn't to me at the time, but I suspect the weight increases over time.

I had particular reason (and time) to reflect on my own vocation yesterday as I sat in an Anchorage courtroom and waited out a jury selection. Despite having a relatively low draft number (so to speak), I was not selected. I did not try to get out of service. I try to fulfill the duties of citizenship, since I do enjoy its privileges. A few people asked if I was going to wear my collar and I said I wouldn't. I didn't because I don't wear it on a day to day basis. It's not really part of my wardrobe and not totally expected from my community.

However, there was another collar in the jury pool. A late-middle-aged man wore a black shirt with the little white tab shining prominently at his throat. He looked like a priest out of a book a picture book. In one of the toddler books of opposites around my house, a picture of this man would have been "a priest" and a picture of me would be "young upstart".

Of course, that's not really the way I see myself, but sometimes... This gentleman made to questioning where he revealed that he was an Orthodox priest, had been for many years and felt he would be an excellent juror because he's used to listening to people and thinking things through. When asked about wearing his collar, the prosecuting attorney gestured to an airman in the room and said, "It's like your uniform?" The priest said, "It's what I put on every day." The attorneys referred to him as "Father" and he was seated on the jury, wherein I'm sure he'll do an excellent job. His only concern was that people might find it difficult to disagree with him and he wanted people to see him as a regular person.

As I listened to him, his thoughts about his collar and how the lawyers spoke to him with care, I reflected on my own thoughts about my collar. In general, the shirts for women aren't very comfortable. The cotton ones bind and the microfiber ones are pricy and not easily replaced, which doesn't translate well to picking up toddlers or any number of things I do on a daily basis.

My experience, though, tells me it's not the collar that makes a pastor. It's not even the ordination, though that helps. It's the time. The time you spend in prayer and reflection. The time you spend listening. The time you spend sitting. The waiting time. The talking time. The travel time.

I wear a collar to early morning hospital visits and to "official" events. I wear one for most church services and for some house calls. There are also people, in the church, for whom the collar is a barrier to communication. I don't wear it when I thin raspberry bushes, when I take a walk, when I stop by after work.

I did promise to wear my collar every day for a week at once point and I need to uphold my end of the bargain. I feel eyes go right to it when I do wear it, but maybe I need to feel that. And maybe people need to see a wider variety of people in collars these days.

I keep thinking of the priest saying, "It's what I put on in the morning." If that was a question, (What do you put on the morning), I would answer, "Christ."

That's the most important part. The remaining question is, am I willing to let everyone see that?

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