(Clerical) Suit Up!

The dog collar. The flea collar. Clerical collar. Roman collar. Tab Collar.

Whatever you call it, the stiff white collar worn by many clergy (most often with a black shirt) is funny looking. Many pastors and priests have abandoned clerical collars. They are too formal. They make us (clergy) look different than everyone else - and we want people to know that we are just like them. Clergy want to seem more approachable, more relaxed, more laid back. We don't necessarily want to be connected to institutional religion in an age when people don't trust institutional religion.

All good reasons to abandon the clerical collar. And yet, I remain someone who wears clericals more often than not. I have outlined before some reasons why I do so. However, the greatest reason is this: I want people who are looking for a representative of God / the church to be able to find me; and to find me easily.

But, you may say, people don't really go looking for a representative of God or the church. And most of the time you are right. But when people get to the end of their rope, when people start feeling overwhelmed they do. Or, to put it another way, people do not start looking for someone in a clerical collar until their need is great.

The analogy I've always used is police officers. If I am in need of help, I am much more likely to look for a police officer in uniform than I am a police officer in plain clothes. Granted, it is not often that I am looking for a police officer. But when I am, I need to be able to find one as soon as possible.

So too, clergy. It is may not be often that a person is looking for a pastor, but when they are they often need to be able to find one as soon as possible.

Yesterday, I went to the hospital and visited with a member recovering from surgery. Walking out of the Critical Care Unit to go visit with the family in the waiting room, a young woman stopped me. "Will you be in the hospital long today? They are taking my Dad off life support today."

I told her I would be back. I went and visited with the family of the congregation member who went through surgery. I went back into the Critical Care Unit, and met the young woman's mother and her father. We prayed together. We cried together.

We watched as the ventilator tube was removed from the man. And then we sat together some more. We talked about God and suffering and pain. We cried some more. We prayed some more.

I spent about 3 hours in that room - because I was wearing a collar. They were experiencing the long dark night, and they needed - desperately - someone who could speak with them about faith and God, someone who represented the church. And I was the guy in the funny looking collar.

There is no argument that can outweigh my experience with that family yesterday (and others I have had like it).

And so, in the words of Barney Stinson, I will continue to "suit up."