Do I wear my collar into Target?

by

In a very creative blog post (complete with pictures!), The Rev. Heidi Haverkamp finds herself wondering about her clergy collar in a moment of decision:

Would I go into Target as a pastor? Or as a person?

I feel ashamed whenever I feel I have to make this decision. Am I ashamed of my work? Don’t I want to be a public witness to the existence of women in the clergy? Why not make myself available to people who might want to talk to a pastor?

But I feel like a spectacle. Especially as a girl in a collar – a young one, at that.

Haverkamp addresses the confusion that many have in seeing her in a collar, and the challenge they have in reconciling it with their assumptions.

She also addresses some of the other sides of the attention she gets while in a collar, and asks important questions:

Collar-wearing has never brought words of fury down on my head, but it attracts attention. And sometimes, I don’t have the emotional energy for confused looks or awkward comments. “Are you a nun?” “You seem awfully young to be a minister.” “I’m not that into organized religion.” “I’m so glad to see a woman pastor!” Instead of a person, I’m a symbol of The Church. I imagine members of the military feel the same when they’re in uniform – they’re not a person, they’re A Soldier.

Some will say that I AM different, that I do represent The Church and I should claim that. Maybe they’re right. But I’m not sure that’s my theology for the priesthood – to stand apart as a More Spiritual Person. To be a Public Religious Leader. To be a Holy Presence wherever I go. Must clergy always be public property in that way? I belong to the people of my congregation yes – I am theirs. Their priest, comforter, person-to-pray-for-them, preacher, and teacher. But am I also that for everyone I meet? For the people in Target? Does wearing a collar even communicate that message?

Or does it just mark me as a novelty?

Dislike (0)
Facebooktwittergoogle_pluspinterestlinkedinmail
newest oldest
Notify of
Stacywf
Guest
Stacywf

I don't like wearing a clerical collar because it is a man's shirt, and frankly not very flattering to my figure. Yep, I will admit to vanity! But I find when I do wear it I get to know the people in my neighborhood better. No body wants anything from me or wants to argue with me. But more often than not that blessedly uncomfortable collar is a casual conversation starter. So is wearing a White Sox T-shirt --and the conversations are usually not too different either way: light and friendly. We are called to be in conversation with our neighbors and proclaim the Gospel with our lives. When you are a priest you just gotta wear the uniform from time to time, and people of many vocations appreciate that, particularly Target employees in red shirts and khakis.

Stacy WalkerFrontjes (added by editor)

Like (0)
Dislike (0)
Rod Gillis
Guest
Rod Gillis

@ at Paul Woodrum, "Clothes make the man and vestments make the priest". Poor John the Baptizer, he could have used some fashion advice!

Parade square soldiers do not make the best soldiers in the field, but now we are trading cliches. Speaking of the same, ideas are like political prisoners, they need a vigorous defense.

Like (0)
Dislike (0)
Paul Woodrum
Guest
Paul Woodrum

Clothes make the man and vestments make the priest.

Like (0)
Dislike (0)
Rod Gillis
Guest
Rod Gillis

@ Paul Woodrum "Ordination is about authorizing and empowering some to specifically serve the needs and goals of the ecclesia." No big argument there. In fact, one could say something similar about baptism.None of which, however, really makes a case for distinctive clerical garb or a self understanding that sees one's self as "set apart" from others.

The problem with special modes of dress is that they are understood and "decoded" within a social and cultural context. Many of us will recall days of yore when clerics and religious trod main street dressed like characters from "Going My Way." Society at that time got it. Mind you, it was the "Father Knows Best" ( pun definitely intended) kind of world in which clergy, doctors, the milkman were all uniformed. Leave it to the church to hang onto the social world of Norman Rockwell--but then we do love nostalgia and romance in our rear view mirror world.

Like (0)
Dislike (0)
Jim Pratt
Guest
Jim Pratt

I'm in a milieu where anti-clericalism is rampant and RC priests (the dominant faith) do not go out wearing the collar. I do, and I find it often a starting point for conversations about faith with strangers. On the bus, I have had in-depth conversations with a Romanian Muslim bus driver, and with a young convert to evangelical Christianity who wasn't finding all the answers there, and even heard a brief confession. While past clerical abuse can turn some people away, the collar is an invitation to others.

On the other hand, I tend not to wear the collar for Bible studies and parish committee meetings, very consciously, as a way of not putting up a barrier or distinction between myself and the rest of the group.

Like (0)
Dislike (0)
Paul Woodrum
Guest
Paul Woodrum

Rod Gillis. Yes. Yes. I'm sure service is what Jesus expects of every single member of the laos and maybe by the Last Judgment all will meet that expectation. But service takes many forms and, realistically, until that day there will always be a little cadre set aside, i.e., given authority and power, whose job it is to preserve, promote, protect, and build the institution. Thus it was in the beginning with judges, prophets, kings and priests, is now with bishops, deacons and priests and probably ever will be with some form of professional leadership to organize the whole laos.

Ordination is about authorizing and empowering some to specifically serve the needs and goals of the ecclesia. That's the peculiar service of the ordained. The problem is not with its universal existence, but with its occasional abuse.

Like (0)
Dislike (0)
Rod Gillis
Guest
Rod Gillis

@ Paul Woodrum, "What do you all think ordination is all about?" Its about service Paul. All forms of ministry are about service, grounded in the ministry of Christ who came not to be served but to serve and give his life as a ransom for many.

The notion of the whole people of God creates so many tensions with the turn of phrase "set apart" that the two expressions are not reconcilable.

I do find the power relationship couplets you use in your most recent post rather intriguing on this issue. Each of them implies a situation in which one person has power over another. Here I am reminded of the phrase "it shall not be so with you."

As for the President-citizen analogy, do you really want to go there right now?

Like (0)
Dislike (0)
Paul Woodrum
Guest
Paul Woodrum

Ann and Rod, saying clergy are no more set apart than any other Christian is akin to saying the President is no more set apart than any other citizen. While clergy are a part of the laos they are set apart by the laos and, one prays, by the Holy Spirit, to witness, promulgate, and defend the teaching of the church and to administer the sacraments. What do you all think ordination is all about?

And what's wrong with power dynamics. They are a part of life whether it be child and parent, doctor and patient, voter and politician, citizen and police, bishop and priest, employer and employee, Creator and created, etc., etc. The question is how and to what end power is used; to build up or tear down.

Like (0)
Dislike (0)
Ann Fontaine
Guest
Ann Fontaine

Clergy are no more set apart than any other Christian. I disagree that we have to somehow be available all the time to all people -- all of us who follow Christ are serving - not just clergy. Also there is a power dynamic that happens with a "collar" whether we acknowledge it or not.

Like (0)
Dislike (0)
Jack Ryan
Guest
Jack Ryan

I am a retired police officer. I wore my uniform while officially on-duty, even though I was technically "on-duty" at all times. Occasionally I would still be in uniform and have to do errands on the way home. People would often stop me and ask for help in ways they wouldn't have if I were in plain clothes. Sometimes that was a blessing, Sometimes not.

But I am intrigued - do people actually approach strange clergy in Target to be "Their priest, comforter, person-to-pray-for-them, preacher, and teacher?"

I always imagined that relationship to be more intimate that say a person who needed a random cop because they just locked themselves out of their car.

Like (0)
Dislike (0)
Rod Gillis
Guest
Rod Gillis

@ Sarah Flynn "but when the phone rings, they are calling you because you put that collar on." Pastors get called, hopefully, not because of wearing a collar, but because they care. Clergy have been given pastoral authority as a continuing member of the "laos",the people of God. Pastors are called upon not because they have been set apart from the whole people, or duded in a special shirt.

Clerical garb is a cultural affectation. The bishop's outfit is either the garb of a medieval overlord, or that of a member of the House of Lords. The chasuble was likely taken from the upper class of Imperial Rome ( and I wore that get-up until my last day.) The Divines and pre-Anglo Catholics likely celebrated in some sort of academic gown.Clerical collars date back to the 19th Century when clergymen turned regular collars backwards in order to be identified--more traditional garb by protestants having been abandoned for street wear.

Whether one wears a collar or not, is not a big issue. What is disconcerting is the notion that this mode of clerical haberdashery is seen by some to have some sort of intrinsic connection to caring for people and celebrating the sacraments of redemption.

I agree fully with your notion of pastors as professional, in the sense of having made a life profession. Clothes do not make the person/parson.

Like (0)
Dislike (0)
Sarah Flynn
Guest
Sarah Flynn

What does a collar represent? A white coat represents a Medical doctor. A gown and a wig represents a member of the legal profession at least in the UK and elsewhere in Europe. A academic gown represents a Professor. And a collar has replaced the cassock as representing the clergy. Now, when does a doctor stop being a doctor? A lawyer stop being an officer of the court? The difference between a "profession" and a job is that there really isn't a time when one ceases to be a professed member of those professions. That is true if one takes off the white coat or gown or collar. You are still held to the standards of your profession even when "off duty". A "Parson" is a "Public Person" (origin of the word). There isn't a time when he or she stops being the public face of the Church, and her Lord, Jesus Christ. You as an ordained person are always "on call" and the collar simply says "I'm available to you as one who is obedient to the Gospel of Jesus Christ." You may take it off to go swimming or to sleep, but when the phone rings, they aren't calling you because you are a nice person. They are calling you because you put that collar on.

Like (0)
Dislike (0)
Rod Gillis
Guest
Rod Gillis

@ "There is a sense in which clergy are set apart." Actually, there isn't.

Like (0)
Dislike (0)
Paul Woodrum
Guest
Paul Woodrum

I'm retired. I usually only wear my tab collar on official occasions. If I'm wearing it on a crowded subway, nobody ever offers me a seat. If I don't have it on, sometimes a young person will be kind to an old man and give up their seat for me. I'm beginning to suspect a growing anti-clericalism.

However, if I'm wearing it while lunching with a friend not wearing one, the check is always given to the 'layperson.' Gotta love wait staff.

Some professions have uniforms. No need to be ashamed. Wearing it under some circumstances may help keep boundaries clear on both sides. There is a sense in which clergy are set apart. As such not wearing it may be perceived as a deception.

Like (0)
Dislike (0)
Mary Beth Rivetti
Guest
Mary Beth Rivetti

When I was near ordination, the Bishop of California commented that sometimes a collar is the only Bible people will open that day. I balance that with a desire not to impose a clerical power symbol. However, serving in a rural community in the inland Northwest, I realize that, often, wearing a collar is often viewed as a strange sartorial choice -- not recognizable as anything religious at all. It's not an easy choice -- other than that it saves me wondering what to wear when I go out to dinner....

Like (0)
Dislike (0)
Julie
Guest
Julie

When I'm working, I wear my collar anywhere I happen to be. I do so in large part because I want people to see that priests are just people, with lives pretty much like theirs. We go to the bank, zip into the grocery store, even (gasp!) buy a romance novel at a bookstore.

As the only woman clergyperson in town who regularly wears a collar, I've had a chance to answer a lot of questions and talk to all sorts of folks about TEC, God, faith, whatever. Occasionally I get a snarl for having the audacity to disobey the Bible or (as one guy put it) "take a man's job," but most people have been lovely in their curiosity and engagement.

We all have different stories, different views; just thought I'd share mine.

Julie Murdoch+

Like (0)
Dislike (0)
Adam Spencer
Guest
Adam Spencer

I've always considered the sight of a clerical collar out in public a comforting, even a holy thing. That "symbol of The Church" is a welcome sight to me. It reminds me of my own faith. Maybe it makes others think about or consider God or religion or meaning or ethics, even for a moment. I certainly do get how that symbolism can be a weighty thing for someone to have to carry and I know how much we're all about not loving on our institutions anymore. But, in my opinion, that sort of a visible, public, human symbol (though complex) is still, perhaps, worthwhile.

Like (0)
Dislike (0)
Rod Gillis
Guest
Rod Gillis

Although recently retired, I gave up wearing a clerical collar about ten years ago for just about everything. Didn't wear one for pastoral calls, hospital visits, not even on Sundays. It took a few weeks of discipline, having worn one for about 25 years, to feel comfortable, especially in hospitals, but I would recommend it to any pastor.

My circumstances helped. I was in my final parish for sometime, every body knew me, and most parishioners, at my request called me by my Christian name "Rod" rather than "Father" or "Canon" or the dreaded "Rev." When meeting new people, I had to engage them in conversation rather than let some 19th century wardrobe item set a first impression. My experience was that getting rid of the collar reduced down transference, and made relationships in difficult pastoral circumstances a little easier. But more than anything, I felt like I was making a witness against the clericalism that stalks Anglican institutional life.

Like (0)
Dislike (0)
Kurt Wiesner
Guest
Kurt Wiesner

As I said in the post, I think Heidi did a very creative job in addressing this question, addressing not just in the assumptions that people make, but wondering as to her role as priest.

When I remember that I'm wearing the collar, and thus faced with the question of taking it off to go into Wal-Mart (we don't have a Target here...), I consider taking it off for similar reasons (even though I don't have to encounter the formable "female clergy" question). But additionally, I wonder that if I choose to leave it on is it about MY ego: am I wanting to be recognized as one with a level of religious authority?

Kurt Wiesner

Like (0)
Dislike (0)
esoterica1693
Guest
esoterica1693

I am wondering whether folks under 40 even recognize what a clerical collar is at all, especially a full-round one. I serve in campus ministry, so am all about ways of increasing visibility and witness for a progressive way of being religious, but often doubt my collar is helping that. Am experimenting w/ tab collars even though I vastly prefer the "Anglican" look. What do others think/experience?

Gillian Barr {added by ed.}

Like (0)
Dislike (0)
Ann Fontaine
Guest
Ann Fontaine

I have had this angst - and still do occasionally. The questions fall into 3 areas if they don't just think it is a fashion statement (yes - many people don't recognize "gurlz" in collars as clergy). 1. are you a nun? 2. women can't be ordained - says so in the Bible. 3. wow - so great that women can be priests - what church do you serve? 3a. What should I call you?

I think mostly my feelings come from not wanting to call attention to myself, except when I do want to!! LOL

Like (0)
Dislike (0)