Thursday, March 24, 2005

Collared but not Collards (too early in the season for Southern Greens)

Every month I pray a meal blessing for a women's civic organization as the chaplain. I'm the first ordained person to hold this position for the group. I'd crow about this but let's be truthful:
clergywomen are sparse here and if any other clergy gal was asked, she'd be too busy.

I attend this group to visit with friends I don't see ordinarily.

In the interest of unbiased reporting I must admit that this group is one of the last places where I am a "younger" member. No further comment.

I wore my clerical collar yesterday because it's Holy Week and I'm busy. This was the first time I'd appeared at this luncheon in my uniform.

One woman told me that if she ever married again, she'd want me to do the service.
Another told me I needed to have my portrait done wearing the collar.
A third woman told me I looked beautiful.

My dress is rather plain most of the time. I'm not fashionable or drab most days but I'm no stunner.

I think I surprised the women by looking like what I am and what I do. Perhaps they don't think of me as clergy because they see me running around with my children, hugging my husband and hot-footing it through the grocery store. I doubt they see clergy women often. I can think of only one other woman down here who wears a collar.

It's taken me several years to get comfortable with collar wearing. At first, years ago, I'd find myself being called "Mother" by strangers and would forget to respond unless they were in my face. I can operate under the clergy radar scanner when I'm not "collared" and I can understand the strengths of stealth ministry. I can get into conversations with people without the initial "oh! you are a preacher!" paragraph.

But, still and all, I am clergy. I am a preacher. I do pastor a congregation. I am a public prayer.
Wearing the collar opens up conversations that I wouldn't have most days. I ran through the High School office yesterday to do an errand for the LS and was stopped by two kids and one staff member to talk. Without the collar I would be just another invisible Mom.

It's Maundy Thursday. We go to worship tonight at the LH's church. I'm looking forward to sitting in the pew with my family.


Anonymous said...

I have always liked the wearing of the collar. Like a judge's robe, a soldier's uniform, or a Sheriff's badge, it says "this is who I am".

I don't know if I will say this right, but we should generally take who we are and not what we are seriously. I mean, we should take our character seriously as opposed to whether we are a policeman or a priest. On the other hand, when acting like a professional, we should take what we are seriously and not who we are. Again, I mean, we should take our duties and beliefs seriously and not be haughty or uppity because of our position.

The formality of the collar allows people to take your profession seriously, which then frees you to be more human and approachable in your personality.

So,Wear the collar (eat the collards).


Preacher Mom said...

Interesting post. I've never worn a clergy collar - very, very few clergy of any denomination in my immediate area do. I've always wondered how it would feel and what effect it would have on the way people treat me. Maybe I'll try it sometime.

I dress way more like a mom than a clergywoman. Maybe too much so. I am a big fan of comfort! Yesterday when I picked up the kids from the sitter, I was wearing one of my dark, professional, "yes, I'm really working" pantsuits. I really hadn't done anything out of the ordinary. No big meetings or crisis hospital visits or anything like that. My choice of outfit was more of an in-between-seasons-and-almost-everything-else-is-dirty kind of decision. She wanted to know what on earth I'd had to do that day!

When I work incognito (i.e. Momwear), I think people are comfortable with me and talk easily. Some of them who work downtown don't even know I'm a pastor. Is that good or bad? Who knows? Would they talk to me differently if they did? Would they shy away, as some tend to do, or would they see it as an opening to seek out pastoral care? Does my casual attire make me more real, or does it perpetuate the myth that preachers only work on Sunday?!

mark said...

i'm still getting used to the wearing of the collar. I'm wearing one now, but the tab is taken out. So most of the time, even when I'm wearing a clerical shirt, the tab is in my front pocket. And I don't think that counts, does it?

~m2~ said...

i am sure you do look beautiful with one on -- other times, your beauty radiates and it makes people wonder *why* the beauty; collar on, they know *why*

(honestly, though - i could not even imagine what you look like with or without one - i always picture, i don't know and don't hurt me for saying this....a casserole!!!!)


peace & blessings,

SpookyRach said...

Great post. I have to admit I have never, ever seen a woman in a clerical collar. Actually, women ministers are damn hard to come by around here.

The "uniform" seems to always invoke a sense of serenity for me when I am around someone wearing it.

Quotidian Grace said...

Pastors in our presbytery don't wear collars,either. And that's really too bad, because the attire many of them choose when they are not leading worship is too casual and unprofessional--male or female, it matters not.

My huband's law firm changed its dress code to "business casual" for a couple of years but then brought back "professional dress" when they found too many defined "business casual" inappropriately.

Pastors could use a return to collars or professional dress everyday (at least in this area). It does elicit respect and acknowledgment of your gifts and education.

I wonder if Jesus dressed like a rabbi of his day?

Songbird said...

I can't think of anyone among my UCC colleagues who wears a collar, with the possible exception of a guy who is also a Chaplain in one of the Reserves. Like Preacher Mom, I tend to dress like "Mom" in a lot of cotton knit dresses from Bean or Eddie Bauer. Even though my garb is pretty simple, it's usually more formal than that of my generally dressed-down congregation.
There's something appealing about the uniform, though. I know myself as priest more than pastor when I get into the robe, and it feels good.

PPB said...

I'm not a regular wearer of the collar, either. I do dress up for work, but that's because my current workplace is very dressy. I do wear collars for funerals. I got that advice while a seminarian, and it makes sense.

When I worked at unairconditioned college, I wore a white collar shirt and skirt in the summer because the wool robe that seemed like such a good idea when I bought it was not. Of course, in that presbytery all the women (meaning 6) but me wore collars every day. All the women (6) but me attended the local Lutheran seminary, though, so that played a part I assume.

Haven't done it in a couple years, though.


Anonymous said...

I've never worn a collar myself, although several men in my Presby do...maybe that's why I don't!

I do love slipping into my robe, though. It's always a prayerful moment:"Lord, let me do this with some dignity , grace, and authenticity. Amen."
Revmom (Not ReverendMother)

the reverend mommy said...

I am not very comfortable in one -- most of the men in my denomination do not wear one around here. Several of the women do. And I do when I wear my cassock and surplice. One of my possible CPE placements wants the students who are licensed or ordained to do so. (oh, joy, CPE. I love CPE. Goody goody) No doubt my reluctance will be the first thing for my CPE group to pick apart. (the thought just fills me with.... anticipation.)