the collar

For some reason it stuck with me. I imagine that not many of the poems one has to read in high school do, but this one did. The poem was called, “The Collar” and it was by George Herbert. It was basically a lament of the duty of wearing the priestly collar. It’s sadness and frustration stemming from the calling embodied by that holy neck-tie. It really is worth the read even through all the archaic language.*

The weirdest thing about all of this…about every time I see a priest in a clerical collar I start reciting the pieces of the poem I remember (to myself of course…don’t want to look like I am talking to myself in front of a priest and risk a dash of exorcist laden holy water). But in some ways I am jealous of these men/women. They wear an outward sign to show people who or rather Whose they are. There is therefore immediate expectation placed upon their behavior in every encounter they have. Although binding, I can see this as rather freeing.

This is not the case in the tradition I belong to. In fact, due to my choice in attire I suppose, it always seems to sneak up on people when I tell them that I am a minister. It’s pretty fun most of the time. But in the same breath this allows me something…choice. In fact it may even be more profound than having to wear a clerical collar. Can people tell that I am a man of the cloth by my every action and interaction with those around me? For that matter we are all called to be disciples of Christ and is this something we choose to morph in and out of due to the freedom of not having to wear priestly garb? In Matthew 5:14-16 Jesus says, “You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house.In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.” We are the light of the world! But can anyone tell?

I enjoy passing priests. And yes sometimes I am jealous of their obvious statement to the world. But then I think about how much more responsibility is placed upon us in the absence of the collar. Do people know we are the light?


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