In seminary, we spent a lot of time talking about this little number:
The clerical collar. Should we wear one? When should we wear one? Should we wear a full collar (pictured) or a tab collar (not pictured, because I went with the full collar). What are we saying when we do or do not wear the collar on Sunday morning, to the hospital, to the office, to the grocery store?
Some pastors wear their collars every day. It’s a symbol of vocation, a visible sign of who they are. Some pastors never, ever wear a collar. Some pastors wear them only on Sundays, or only for weddings and funerals, or only for their driver’s license photo (pro tip: this may get you out of a speeding ticket one day, although in my experience being genuinely surprised that you were going that fast or genuinely sorry about it work pretty well, too).
I wear my collar just about every time I preach and / or lead worship, which means every Sunday, one or two Thursdays a month, weddings, funerals, and every Wednesday in Lent. I sometimes wear it for hospital visits, and for other occasions when I want to look especially pastor-y. “In my context” (as we say at the seminary), I believe the collar helps identify me as the pastor, both to others and to myself, and that this is helpful and positive.
And sometimes, it just comes in handy. For example:
Last week, on my way to an unexpected hospital visit before leading worship at the assisted living center in Cosmos, I realized that I needed wine. So at 12:45 PM on a Thursday I dashed into the liquor store, bought a four-pack of small wine bottles, drove to the hospital, and refilled my communion wine bottle in the parking lot. Since I didn’t want to spill on myself, I did this sitting in my car with the door open, holding the wine bottles outside the car.
Now, I am not saying that pouring one small bottle of wine into an even smaller bottle was a classy thing to do in the Meeker Memorial parking lot. I am saying that doing this while wearing a clerical collar is a lot less weird than doing it while not wearing the collar. See? Handy!
And in case you were wondering, those lucky enough to share a foretaste of the feast to come from my communion kit in the next few weeks will be enjoying Yellow Tail Shiraz.