Saturday, September 10, 2005

Dog Collars

Originally uploaded by Peacebang.

UU bloggers have talked an awful lot about when it's appropriate to wear clericals, and when to do so would be inauthentic and manipulative. Boy In the Bands has a good rule: he says if you don't wear them regularly to identify yourself as clergy, don't just throw on a shirt when you attend a rally or on some other work of activism.

Nevertheless, I just bought a clergy shirt to wear to Baton Rouge, even though I rarely wear one at home. My old one was simply heinous (and I don't like the big all-around dog collar, I prefer the tab -- and I don't much care about the historical or ecclesiastical differences between them right now, although by this spring I probably will, as my class may want to know for their own edification).

Why wear the dog collar in Louisiana?

A couple of reasons: first, it's a uniform of sorts. I could just walk around with a sign that says, "Hey ya'll, I'm a minister, which means that I'm prepared to offer you spiritual support right now," or like a firefighter or National Guard reservist, I can show up in my uniform and people will know I'm clergy. Not only will I pray with you, listen to you, hold your hand, tell your child a story, or hold your purse while you go to the bathroom, I'm also good for a Kleenex and some good pointers on where to go to get a meal, clothes, and shelter for the night if need be. Although I expect that there will be a lot less of that come October.

Second, if someone wants to give God an earful of rage and accusation, they know they can lay it on me. No, it's not rational, but it can help. And since I'm a Unitarian Universalist, they're never going to hear a response like, "It was God's will" or "It was his time to go" or "His ways are mighty to behold" or anything like that. They're probably going to hear, "Bring it on, baby. You give that God a piece of your mind."

I am grateful today for my Universalist heritage which tells me that our God is not a God who sends storms and floods to punish anyone, anywhere, ever.

(Fausto has a good conversation of this issue going on at

On a sartorial note: it's not okay to wear a clergy blouse with a belt, is it? I am so not a tuck-the-shirt-in girl. I suppose I'll have to make judicious use of blazers and overshirts. There's no need to traumatize a population of people any more than they already have been.


Blogger Peregrinato said...

You're dead on with the collar issue. You're not down there as a "mental health expert" (trust me--they are often ignored or distrusted), you're not down there as a cop, a reporter, or simply someone who wants to pass out water (which doesn't mean you won't be doing that, of course). Pastoral ministry has lots of roles, and you need to be known for what you are. I know one day I will wear a collar, but i'm not sure when that will be, what the circumstances will be, etc.

Blogger Peregrinato said...

P.S. I prefer the all-around "Moravian collar" (I think that's what BitB identifies it as) but the type you're choosing may be more comfortable around the neck for what you're going to do.

Blogger fausto said...

Go for the Geneva tabs. A little lace at the throat might be just the right accent.

Besides, they're more authentic to our tradition than that Anglican-derived stuff. The first pastor of your own church wore them; why not you?

Blogger PeaceBang said...

I think Geneva tabs are to be worn for preaching with a robe, no?

Also, they get in my won-ton soup.


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