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Do I wear my collar into Target?

Do I wear my collar into Target?

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?


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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)

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.

Paul Woodrum

Clothes make the man and vestments make the priest.

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.

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.

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