Friday, July 20, 2012

The man in black

It's a miserable, hot, drought-stricken summer here in the Midwest. On Monday I had some shut-in calls to make as well as some errands to run. These were to take me in different directions so I figured I could do the errands first and skip the clergy uniform, then head for home to get dressed for the shut-in calls. It has been so hot and sunny out that just making a few stops, walking from the car to the store, etc., will sweat you right through your collar. But then I recalled that the last time I had been out on errands that way, I had run in to a parishioner I had been wanting to talk to and was glad that I was dressed appropriately. So into the blacks I went. I didn't see any parishioners, but the checker at the store did say to me, "You are a priest, right?"

"A Lutheran priest, yes."

"Well, I have a question I've been wanting to ask. . . "

This happens all the time. It's one of the reasons I think it is important to dress my vocation when I'm out in public. There are many other reasons, too, but this is probably the controlling reason. So why don't "missional" folks go for a clergy uniform? Wouldn't it make them more accessible? Make witnessing easier?

Ah, but you forget that our target audiences are so different. I think it is important to dress my vocation so that those people who want a pastor can spot me if they need me. I dress as I do for the sake of the elect. I need to be visible to them because I am owned by them, I am their servant for Christ's sake. The missional/functional Arminian type is out to find the "unchurched." They want to talk to unbelievers, to the kind of folks who don't want to talk to a clergyman. So of course they can't dress like a clergyman.



  1. So, you're against the "Bait and bait and bait, etc" technique?

  2. I remember at sem someone was preaching and complaining about the fact that he was wearing his collar on the plane, and someone struck up a conversation with him, and how annoying this was, but he ended up talking to him anyway. then DP Scaer comes into class and says, "If you don't want people to talk to you, DON'T WEAR YOUR CLERICAL."

  3. I've even had Mormon and Muslim "evangelists" approach me in my collar for religious debate in public. That gives me a natural opportunity to speak the Gospel and condemn false teaching in a public area.

  4. In fact, even the unchurched and the unbelievers, even many of the most hardened children of modern western secularism, are actually in their own way searching for the Church, and have a certain often unspoken respect for the tradition of the Church. That is, reaching the lost in the modern world, I would argue, is best served precisely by displaying exactly what your calling is, and what you represent, even before those whose initial response will be hostility. I have seen this play out even in the bohemia of Milwaukee's East Side. What you call the missional/functional Arminian type are, contrary to conventional wisdom, truly the delusional/insensitive hopelessly irrelevant ones, whose idiosncratic practices make them ridiculous to the world, even now (just look, eg., at how "Reverend Tim Tom" is portrayed in the "The Middle") how much more so in the years to come.

  5. The English District "mission" newsletter just had a long story about a pastor in San Diego who deliberately deceives people about his vocation. Once they find out he is a pastor, he says, they don't want to talk to him. So he keeps it from them. I assume that he never - even when he and his wife are leading "Bible studies" in bars - wears a collar.

  6. plus, wearing my collar has got me "out" of three speeding tickets and a bunch of free coffee at the cafeteria at St. Luke's (when it was still St. Lukes) hospital in Aberdeen, SD back in the 90s. "Complimentary coffee for you Father"

  7. Every single flight I've taken with the collar has included a spiritual discussion. Non-members have come up to me in restaurants and made appointments for counseling. And yes, several checks have been picked up by anonymous diners who saw the Father over there at the corner table and wanted to cover his lunch.

  8. We certainly have alot of extra time in the morning because we never have to think of what we'll wear today.

    I love the story, (I've had a very similar situation) when one of our pastors at the hospital surgical waiting room, pulled aside and asked for a prayer for a child going into surgery. He prays with the family, then as he's leaving another couple pulls him aside and says, "Hi, we're not Roman Catholic, we're Lutheran, but we thought that was a beautiful prayer." He responds he is Lutheran as well and they visit too.

    I encourage wearing a Luther's seal lapel pin, to the careful observer, even the priest you run into, they smile when they see it.

    And at circuit meeting, with unprovoked ridiculed by another brother pastor for my dress, he says "I detest the errors of Rome and don't want to be mistaken publicly for a Roman," my response is, "I too detest their errors, but I'll take that as long as I never am accused of looking like a Baptist preacher."

  9. When I was on vicarage one of our winkels was held at the regional hospital so that we could get a tour of the brand new wing that was being opened the following week. Though I was a vicar, I was the only one present wearing a collar. Before we went on the tour the hospital chaplain stopped by to talk to us. He handed name badges to each of us. He asked us to be sure to wear them whenever we came on visits as a way of identifying who we are; "Because, as you can see, only one of you today can be easily recognized." The hospital had had issues of pastors being mistaken for doctors, with medical information being given out that wasn't supposed to be given out. Since pastors weren't identifying themselves by their dress, they had to come up with a different method.


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