This past Sunday I wore my clerical collar at worship. I don’t usually do that, but was heading out to a hospital visit right after worship. I like to wear my collar on hospital visits as it serves an important purpose – identifying me as clergy.
Today this seems to be a controversial topic. Many of my colleagues do not wear clericals, with the reason cited that we do not need to be identified as something special. But that is not the reason I wear mine. I wear it just as a security guard or nurse wears specific clothing to their profession. It is about quick identification.
This started during my Clinical Pastoral Education in seminary. For a summer I was stationed in a hospital setting learning pastoral care skills. This hospital had a policy that every discipline had a specific uniform for identification purposes. Chaplains wore a blue sweater. It made total sense one night when I was called to the Emergency Room. I walked in and even before identifying myself to the charge nurse, she said “Chaplain, room 5. The man wants no treatment.” I immediately knew what to do – go and pray as this man died.
Upon ordination and my call as pastor I began to wear the collar on hospital calls. I can approach the desk at an emergency room and quickly get a lot of information on the sick congregation member. Or when I am with a member, the staff gives me some time and space for prayer.
But there is one more reason. The collar gives strangers permission to approach me. Because people recognize the collar as clergy, I have been asked to pray many times. Most recent was this past Sunday when I was walking back to my car. A couple exited their truck and asked me to pray for someone who just had an operation. We stood there, hand in hand in the parking lot of the hospital praying. It was one of those powerful Holy Spirit moments. Had I been wearing an ordinary dress shirt and tie, nobody would have prayed with two people who really needed the peace of God which passes all understanding.
So yes I will continue to wear my collar. And I will continue to get comments (some downright rude and nasty) from people, including my colleagues, because it announces to people that I serve Christ. And that is far more important.
Peace be with you,