DO I WEAR A DOG COLLAR?
The simple answer is Yes! From time to time. I do so of my
own accord, though if a couple getting married, for example, had some
particular reason why they'd prefer me not to, I would honour their wishes.
Why? When I'm an Interfaith minister - not
specifically a Christian one!
Well there's several reasons....
My own beliefs
Whether I practice as a Christian or not, my cultural
upbringing was in the Christian church so, to me, it feels comfortable to
adopt the collar especially when I am actively engaged in my Ministry.
In fact, I worship with Quakers, who - in this country - do not adopt any
kind of dress code, nor do they have priests. The Quakers are regarded as a
Christian movement although they are not exclusively so, and in the US, they too have Ministers and some of these
wear the clerical collar.
Who does wear 'the'
The clerical collar is often associated with the Christian
Faith though actually the vast majority of the 900+ Christian sects do not wear
it. In practice, a number of InterFaith Ministers choose to wear it
because of its important symbolism.
The effect of the
For anyone who has a bad experience of the priesthood it is
VERY understandable that they should have a negative association with
someone wearing the clerical collar. So far, only a few people have made this
clear to me. If anyone did and the circumstances allowed it, as a therapist,
I would gladly see if I could help them explore their response.
In reality, I find that people respond very positively towards the
clerical collar. If I walk along the street, all kinds of people who would
never talk to me, spontaneously smile and chat. They presumably have
positive associations with Ministers or instinctively 'know' that I will respond
positively to them.
Where does the collar
come from and what is its symbolism?
Perhaps the most important point to me, is the historical
significance of the clerical collar...
In the early 1800's lawyers, in the UK, Europe and the US,
used to wear a simple white cravat with a collar and two descending ends,
rather like a long and flattened white bow. In the UK and Europe they still
do, and in the US, judges continue to do so.
At some point in the mid 1800's, a few lawyers in the US,
who acted on behalf of slaves, decided to stop wearing the descending ends
on their cravats. The effect was to create a white ring collar. This was a
symbolic gesture reflecting the iron collar that slaves were often made to
wear around their necks.
At the same time, there was a proliferation of travelling
pastors in the US, not affiliated to any particular church but predominantly
Christian in their inspiration. Many of these adopted the same habit. Some
did so for the symbolism with slavery, others did so to create a
psychological association with the legal profession.
In my own case, the symbolism is important, as I too have a
strong concern for those in this world who are oppressed and enslaved.