Thursday, March 10, 2011
Collar Me Purple
So, I've taken on the Lenten discipline of wearing my clerical collar. I've debated this before and I did promise a parishioner that I would wear it for a week, if he wore the pectoral cross for a week. He did, mostly, so I will, mostly.
I've even taken to wearing an Anglican collar, so I can't just slip the tab out. I'll be wearing during my working hours until I go home, but not on my days off (unless I go to a work function).
I've resisted the collar previously for the following reasons: 1) Actual physical discomfort. Both the tab and the full circle are close fitting around the neck. In addition to feeling a little tight, it makes me hot. I hate being hot. The Anglican collar has an additional, hair-shirt quality that comes from the collar stud that pokes into the middle of my throat.
2) In cognito. It's much easier to go in and out of the grocery store, car dealership, Sears, gas station without people asking questions or staring. And it does happen.
3) Alaska casual. I have seen clergy, mainly men, wearing their clericals daily, but I can name 2. Some clergy I know wear the shirts, but keep the collar optional, putting it on as needed (such as to go into the hospital). This isn't a suit-state. I'm a fairly casual person, particularly in dressing, but the collar seems to call for a little something more.
4) Along with being "undercover", not wearing a collar keeps me from spontaneous confessor status. Once people "know" you're clergy, they have a range of things to confess from unbelief, to struggles with the church, to divorce and all manner of faith struggles.
On the other hand, it's arguable that wearing the collar creates ministry opportunities that I'm missing right now. Wearing a dickey allows me to still be fairly casual. And if I lost more weight, maybe the collars wouldn't be as snug.
In reality, I think wearing my collar more frequently will help me to consider aspects of this call and vocation that I usually ignore or that I have yet to consider.
Already, last night, I stopped on the way home to buy a few groceries. When I came to the check-out line, both the checker and the customer stared at me. I just unloaded my cart and then the customer, a woman, asked, "Are you, um, clergy?"
"Yes," I said, wondering what would happen next.
"Have you seen that show... um..." she began, pausing.
"Oh, you mean, 'What Not to Wear'?" I guessed she might be referring the TLC show, which featured an Episcopalian clergy woman a few months ago. Her congregation wanted to spruce up her wardrobe and, among other things, she got a very nice, custom-made clergy dickie.
"Yes, that show," she said. "I loved that show and they gave her one of those things you're wearing."
"I went to school with the woman on the show," I said, which I did. "They did make a collar for her, but it's about $90 and this one is $25."
"Wow, there's a big difference then." she said.
As I nodded, she moved her cart away and the checker began processing my few groceries. "I love that show," the checker said.
I nodded, noncommittally, since I don't have television and have never seen the show.
I could see the other customer waiting, just beyond the registers.
As I began to push my cart toward the parking lot, she fell into step next to me.
"You don't look so fuddy-duddy, though," she confided. (I assume she dropped the "for a pastor".)
"Thanks," I said. "I'm not much for suits, so it's good to live here."
We both laughed and went on our way.
And now at least two women have encountered a woman clergy person, in real life, wearing regular clothes and the "uniform" of her calling and she was a real person.
I think I have a lot to learn in the next six weeks.
And maybe a little to teach.