Published September 15, 2014
© The Rev. Eileen Gebbie
Earlier this summer I started to wear a clerical collar every day at work.
Clerical garb is not a large part of my denomination’s identity. I imagine most of my colleagues wear stoles when they lead worship, but I can only picture a handful of us that are in a collar. I don’t know of any who wear them full-time.
Why not? Our history: We are puritanical in our roots, very invested in simplicity, and the priesthood of all believers. Rejection of the Roman church and its hierarchies and the trappings of those hierarchies has been important to us. We are all accountable for our faith, we can all go straight to God. Pastors are not magical mediators.
I love and agree with all of that. So why put on a (sometimes) very sweaty outfit that makes me stand out?
Because I am tired of my faith not standing out.
One of the reasons I left the church as a younger person was because of the public representation of Christianity in the 80s and 90s. So hateful, so cruel with its anti-woman, anti-gay, anti-poor agenda. I still encounter more media coverage of socially conservative Christians than the people I love and minister with every day.
I want the public, at my coffee shop and grocery store and gas station, to see that a tattooed woman serves as a priest in their community. That there is a worshipping body in their town that has charged me—of all people!—to bring good news to their hearts and a challenge to their feet. I want anyone who has been injured in the name of Christ, or put off by Christians, to have the straight, white, male monolith I imagine in their minds to come tumbling down. To quote retired Anglican archbishop Desmond Tutu:
Jesus did not say, “I, if I be lifted up, I will draw some.” Jesus said, “I, if I be lifted up from the earth, I will draw all, all, all, all, all” (John 12.32)
I am hoping that the collar allows me to be a beacon of total and totalizing love to all.