Monday, October 11, 2010

Collars, Again

Sorry to belabor a point, most of all about something as mundane as haberdashery. But we just stumbled over this, and wanted to share. It's from a piece by Fr. Edward Lewis, writing in the parish newsletter of St. John's, Watford (linked above):

Wearing the clerical collar (a sign which says to others, available for you) an outward sign of the Sacrament of Ordination, gives the priest privileges beyond description. People will allow us to enter into the most precious and deep moments of their lives. They will tell us things they would never share with another. They will expect our prayers and support. Yet it is not the person, but the office which people are using. Of course it is helpful if the general demeanour is a friendly and open one; but let us never forget that it is Christ at work in the ministry of the priest.

Not quite how we would have put it, but we do like the part in parentheses.


Anonymous said...

well, how would you put it?

Father Anonymous said...

Good question. Not very differently at all. Just a little.

As a Lutheran, I'm a bit less comfortable than an Anglo-Catholic talking about ordination as a sacrament. All of us, whatever our hermeneutics when reading the Apology, have Luther's Babylonian Captivity drummed into our heads, with its idiosyncratic -- but compelling -- reinterpretation of the word "sacrament." I was never wholly convinced by it, but ... once you get it into your head, it sticks.

Moreover, even if you do consider ordination a sacrament per se, there is still the technical objection that seminarians (Papist and otherwise) are permitted or even required to wear collars when performing their pastoral duties. So apparently it's not "an outward sign of the sacrament," exactly.

On balance, I guess I would have said something more like "a reminder to ourselves and others of our vocation."

Pastor Joelle said...

I hung out with goddess worshipers in my youth. They had some connections with WICCA--it was the days of the Hillside Strangler and a bunch of them went up in the hills to curse him. But they had to be careful because curses can come back to you. Or so I'm told but it makes sense.

Anyhooo...I remember one goddess worshiper saying how whenever she was worried she just "lays it all on The Goddess" and then she feels much better. And I thought "wow, you could just replace that with Jesus" and it would be like some Christian groups (the ones I was trying to get away from which is why I was hanging with the goddess gals to begin with)

Pastor Joelle said...

I did it again - commented under the wrong post.

But about collars - they don't work so well for women. Cognitive dissonance - I cannot tell you how many times I've been in a hospital with black clerics and collar and been asked "And are you the wife?" Once they thought I was a nun. Collar just doesn't mean the same on a woman.

Father Anonymous said...

No, it doesn't. I've been thinking about that.

My wife laughs, because she is often mistaken for a nun, something she finds strangely amusing. She also gets asked, quite often and by total strangers, "What ... are ... you?" A question that invites all sorts of smart-aleck answers. (As for "You're the wife," well ... eeek.)

Beyond that, there's the question of how you wear them. The fact is that getting dressed is a different experience for men than for women. The social codes and semiotics and whatnot ensure that. Not to mention that many men (ahem) have been conditioned to be so lazy about dressing that an invariable uniform of some kind is the only safe refuge.

So, in practice, the missus and I share a philosophy about how and why to use the funny shirts. We both wear them fairly often, and are both committed to basic black. But the execution is different. My idea of going wild is to switch from a jacket to a sweater. She uses garments and patterns and accessories in ways that I think are wildly (and, yes, excessively) creative. But she always makes it look both good and sober at the same time.

What I've been wondering is whether variant colors don't fall into the same category -- that is, different rules apply to men and women. When men wear clerical shirts in colors other than black, the shirts seem (to me) to stop looking clerical. Message fail. But I wonder whether the whole get up is so anomalous on a woman (still!) that the message gets across, as much as its going to, regardless of color.

I dunno. Might be a question only laypeople can answer, since they're the end-users of the symbolism anyway.

PS (PSanafter-thought) said...

I was on the last call committee at our church. Two of the unordained candidates came straight from a weekend synod convention. They were wearing the collars. I liked seeing that. Maybe they were just wearing props, but in my mind, I saw that as these young people already trying to establish the role that they would play in our church. The collar can be a message that one is open to certain types of encounters. And it can also establish some boundaries.