Late Tuesday night as I was preparing for the Ash Wednesday service, I was still trying to figure out what I was going to do for Lent. Give something up? Take on a service project of some kind? I just didn’t know. Then, came this message via Twitter “Considering wearing my collar daily as Lenten discipline, but can’t bring myself to embrace it. I’d rather quit Coke. Prolly means I should.”
When I read that, I thought “I could do that. I have a collar. That might be interesting.” As I considered it, I also thought about the Episcopal clergywomen in our area.
The afternoon of the Tuesday before Ash Wednesday was the first day I joined a group of Episcopalians for a Lectionary study. Part of the conversation that day touched on the former lack of ordination for women in the diocese which is currently changing. Once ordained, Episcopalians wear a collar. United Methodist ministers can wear a collar but many, if not most, don’t.
In the swirl of thoughts late on the Tuesday before Ash Wednesday, as I contemplated just what I was being called to for a Spiritual Discipline this Lent, I realized that I take the ability to wear a collar for granted. I have had a least one clergy shirt for most of the years I have been in ministry but I rarely have worn it. I was struck by the thought that I have had a barely-worn-taken-for-granted clergy shirt hanging in my closet while others in this area who have been denied ordination would love to be in a position to wear a collar. So, as a part of my Lenten discipline and in solidarity with my Episcopalian sisters called to ordained ministry in the area, I am wearing a clergy collar for Lent.
I had the collar on when we went to Whole Foods after the Ash Wednesday service. The young man who was our checker quietly asked, “Are you a priest?” He was so quiet the first time that he had to ask again just barely louder. I said, “Yes. I’m a United Methodist pastor.” “Oh,” he replied. “I’ve never seen a woman priest before.” Then we chatted for a little bit. It’s the longest conversation I remember having with any checker in a long time. And it was about church stuff!
I hadn’t really considered the collar to be a conversation starter or “outreach” tool. But I now realize that it does serve to raise awareness. I know lots of clergywomen who shop at Whole Foods. I bet that checker has seen more clergywomen than he knows he has. They just didn’t have on a clergy collar so he didn’t recognize them as clergy.
Maybe the collar is a good choice.