Friday, September 17, 2010

Sanctuary Sights and Senses: Clergy Shirt/ Clerical Collar

The following is the second installment of my bulletin insert series:

Clergy Shirt/Clerical Collar - Interestingly, a number of people identify the clergy shirt or clerical collar as being Roman Catholic. In fact, it is worn by a number of pastors in a number of denominations: Episcopal/Anglican, Lutheran, Presbyterian, Baptist, Charismatic, and United Methodist, just to name a few. The association with Roman Catholics may be due to the requirement of priests and to the sheer number of Roman Catholics.

Actually, the clerical collar, as we know it, was of Protestant origin. It was invented by the Rev’d. Dr. Donald McLeod of the (Presbyterian) Church of Scotland. Roman Catholics did not adopt them until later, in the 19th Century.

Clergy shirts come in two basic forms. The full neck-band shirt and the collar tab (the little rectangular, white tab in the very front of the neck). The traditional color for the clergy shirt is black, though other colors are worn. The purple or reddish-purple shirts are usually reserved for bishops.

I tend to wear a clergy shirt when acting in an “official” pastoral role. I do so for a few reasons. First, whenever anyone sees a pastor in a clerical shirt, their thoughts immediately are turned to Christ and/or the Church. It becomes an instant witness in our world of Christ and our call to follow Him. Second, it provides an opportunity for ministry which otherwise would likely not happen. People have/do stop me, when I am dressed as a pastor, in order to talk with me, or to have me pray with them, or to seek spiritual guidance. Third, it identifies my role as a spiritual one, rather than that of a business CEO. And, of course, it is quite Wesleyan! I have yet to see a picture of the founder of Methodism, John Wesley, without the 18th Century version of a clerical collar!


Information gathered from the following resources:

Collins, Ken.  http://www,

McCarter, Julius. "Collared: Why I Wear What I Wear," Sacramental Life. Vol. XIX, Number 3, Summer 2007. OSL

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