A First

There was a time when I was convinced that I would never wear a clerical.  Too showy.  Too old-fashioned.  Out of step with our culture and times.  Irrelevant.

I wore one reluctantly in seminary.  Only on Sundays, and only when I was assisting with the liturgy or preaching.  It chafed, both physically and psychologically.  But over time I grew accustomed to it, still fairly certain that I wouldn’t wear it once I left Seminary, once it was no longer required.

Learning that we were destined for California only increased my resolve.  I’d be free of it at last – certainly nobody in the land of fruits and nuts would expect a clergyman to wear a collar!  Yet I discovered that there were actual Lutherans in California, and that many of them were old enough to expect a pastor in a collar.  I obliged.  It was never a discussion point, never something formally requested, I just knew that this was probably the right thing to do.  To set aside my personal preferences in order to serve.  It seemed a small sacrifice, once a week.

Now it’s been five years at my present Call.  Eight years total in California.  The shirt no longer chafes either physically or psychologically.  It’s actual comfortable, although I still only wear it on Sunday mornings, Ash Wednesday and Good Friday.  But I no longer feel like a pariah in it, probably something that has much to do with my growing comfort in my own skin in general.  If the world wants to look, let them look, and perhaps they’ll see something beyond whether my teeth are straight or my hair is colored (it isn’t).

I have colleagues on both sides of the issue.  There are those that are radically opposed to it, either refusing to wear one or finding the Hawaiian-style versions that make you wish they had just shown up in a nice polo shirt.  I know other guys who compete to see whose collar is highest, and I’m convinced that some of them would be incapable of tying their shoes or even nodding their heads with it on.  Both reactions seem a bit excessive for something so simple and, at a certain level, so arbitrary.

Over the years wearing the clerical has prompted a few different responses.  I had a man ask me for ashes as I returned from an Ash Wednesday visitation with a home-bound member.  I’ve had the staff at the local coffee shop sometimes open up a bit or ask a question or two, tentatively, as I get my fix of caffeine and a bagel.  I’ve had a man (somewhat recently) still very much inebriated from the night before strike up a somewhat incoherent but congenial conversation.

And this morning, for the first time, a man that greeted me in the shop stopped me as I was leaving and asked in a round-about way where my Church was and whether or not I’d be preaching this morning.  I gave him directions, and he was under the impression that many years ago his son might have been baptized there.  It’s the first time I’ve had someone see me in uniform and feel prompted to come to church.

I hope he shows up.

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3 Responses to “A First”

  1. JP Says:

    Did he?

  2. Updates on a First | Living Apologetics Says:

    […] wrote a few weeks ago about a guy who stopped me as I was getting my pre-worship bagel & tea, asking about worship […]

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