To collar or not to collar?

Every now and again among Methodist bloggers there develop some good discussions or commentary about whether or not to wear a clerical collar, which is optional for all United Methodist clergy (as an Anglican priest John Wesley, as pictured below, always wore the 18th Century version of the collar).

I've been in an ecumenical ministry for the last four years in which I did a good deal of preaching and service-leading in Episcopal and Presbyterian (and even some Methodist) congregations that were accustomed to or familiar with a collar, and I certainly wore one on these occasions, though not generally on a typical day.

As I transition into a regular parish ministry this summer, my plan is to wear the collar each Sunday and perhaps whenever I know I'll be making hospital calls, though not on a daily basis. As I've said before I do think there are good reasons to use things like a collar, or vestments, and other visual connections with our historical 'rootedness' and 'catholicity' as United Methodists (even in services with "contemporary" music - the two are not at odds).

In a recent piece at his Closet Anglican blog, United Methodist pastor Tim Powers discussed his reasons for wearing the collar. He raises some good points, and also addresses some concerns that pastors may have when considering the collar. One thing that he says that really stuck with me was this:

So many people wear cowboy/girl clothes or all black or tattoos and pierce themselves in an attempt to "wear their stories." I would much rather wear God's story.

A pastor once told me he didn't wear a collar because "people look at you differently if you do" - but, I suppose that is the point: I like seeing clergy around town wearing collars because is that it is visible reminder to everyone (including the clergy themselves) that something weird is going on: there really are people - quite a few - whose lives have been radically grasped by the true and living God. And that is a story they wear, becoming almost "icon-like" as they go through their days.

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Blogger R. Alexander Tracy said...

I myself have struggled with this question. I tried, for a while, wearing the collar on Sunday mornings. This was particularly efficient as I was wearing a cassock for worship at the time. But I found that I was mistaken for a Roman Catholic priest whenever I wore it anywhere other than the church where I serve. After a while of being called "Father" if I stopped at the grocery on the way home from church, I decided it was time to revert to plain old shirt and tie. I still have a few clerical shirts in the closet, mostly for those ecumenical occasions when they might be called for, but they have kind of shifted into the back corner.

12:58 PM, June 23, 2011  
Blogger Daniel McLain Hixon said...

I typically wear the grey colored clergy shirt, in hopes of not being confused with the Roman priest, and that is with a geneva gown or a suit, so no cassock. I've been looking for some kind of cross and flame pin or necklace that might say "United Methodist" on it, just to be safe. Though I don't mind telling people that Roman Catholics are not the only clergy who wear collars (the modern collar was actually invented by a Presbyterian).

2:19 PM, June 23, 2011  
Anonymous Todd Stepp said...

I just take the term "Father" whenever greated with it. When opportunity is available, i do explain that Luterans, Episcopalians, some Presbyterians, Methodists and even Baptists and Charismatics wear clerical collars. In England most (if not all) Nazarenes (my denomination) wear clerical collars. And I tend to be quite Wesleyan, so tend to wear a collar, as well.

If I have more time, I am able to talk a bit more about the reasons i wear the collar.


12:12 PM, June 29, 2011  
Blogger Todd Stepp said...

And, Happy Birthday!

12:43 PM, June 29, 2011  
Blogger danielhixon said...

Interesting follow up:

10:48 AM, August 31, 2015  

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