Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Collared

At our Regional Assembly recently one of the ministers was wearing a clergy collar. Most Disciples clergy don't wear collars. In fact, one is generally hard put to determine which of the folks at any church event are ministers. I get the impression that California clergy men seem to think that a Hawaiian shirt and blue jeans is their uniform but in the case of clergy women it's really hard to tell. We don't usually even have any titles on our name tags. Titles just aren't a Disciples sort of thing.

Maybe this is because the Disciples founders' intention was to start a movement where the lay leaders were really more important to each congregation than the ordained folk. In the beginning our worship services were designed with the sermon coming after communion, at the very end of the service. That way if the traveling preacher didn't make it there wasn't an embarrassing pause in mid-service where the sermon should go. Everything else in our worship services up to and including presiding at the Table every Sunday is or can be done by lay folks. For some decades ministers in the Disciples tradition weren't set apart by collars or robes or even titles. The history books say that the first DOC minister who put "Reverend" on his door started quite the controversy. Even today many of us don't insist on a title although I must admit I enjoy being called Pastor. :-)

So when a Disciples minister makes a statement by wearing a collar to a regional event it is going to draw some attention. We had a little conversation about it. I admitted that when I first moved here I would often wear a collar when visiting a hospital, but that confused some of my church members so I stopped doing it. As a result I have occasionally been challenged by hospital security officers who ask me to prove I'm a pastor. When I mentioned that to my collared colleague he said the challenges were probably because I am a woman. Oh. Duh. Still, no big deal.

Yesterday I went to a luncheon in LA hosted by some copier companies and the National Church Purchasing Group. The man sitting next to me at lunch had a name tag that said Pastor James. Mine said Maria. I didn't really think much of it until the third introduction that went something like "Hello Maria. I'm Joe, sales rep for ABC company. Are you Delhaven's office administrator?" "Why no, Joe. I'm the pastor." "Oh. Really? A woman pastor? How nice."

OK. That's it. Tomorrow I'm pulling my clergy shirts out of the back of the closet, just in case I have any more church related sales events to attend. I can always keep a spare collar in my purse for emergency identification purposes. :-)

2 comments:

Emily said...

Oh my gosh, the last part made me laugh out loud. Although I think I'm sad to learn that this happens to my women clergy friends in CALIFORNIA just as does to me in Missouri. I guess we're not as progressive in California as I always thought we were...

Wendy said...

Having started in a church that was a conservative off-shoot of the Disciples, I still struggle a little in other traditions, even ones with a "priesthood of all believers" statement, at the separation between clergy and laity. Of course in the conservative branch, it was kind of the priesthood of all male believers...