Monday, December 17, 2012

The usual attire. . .

I read this the other day and found it remarkable for its clarity and reasoned approach to the controversial subject of what a Pastor ought to wear as his usual attire.  For those who will insist upon it, I will allow the usual distinction for being "on duty" (though it truly escapes me as to when a Pastor is NOT on duty!).  It was promulgated in the name of Pope John Paul II in about 1994.  You read it.

In a secularized and tendentiously materialistic society, where even the external signs of sacred and supernatural [not meaning spooky stuff but that which is "above nature"] realities tend to be disappearing, the necessity is particularly felt that the priest – man of God, dispenser of His mysteries – should be recognizable in the sight of the community, even through the clothing he wears, as an unmistakable sign of his dedication and of his identity as a recipient of a public ministry. The priest should be recognizable above all through his behavior, but also through his dressing in a way that renders immediately perceptible to all the faithful, even to all men, his identity and his belonging to God and to the Church.

Twenty years old and still pretty to the point, I think.  Of course, Rome can speak about such matters with an authority and rule that Lutherans do not have nor desire... but.  The point made in this paragraph is, to my mind, very persuasive.  The clothing worn by the Pastor should be an unmistakable sign of his identity as a recipient of a public ministry... dressing in such a way that renders immediately perceptible who he is.

And more:

This means that such clothing, when it is not the cassock, should be distinct from the manner in which laymen dress, and in conformity with the dignity and sacredness of the ministry. Apart from entirely exceptional circumstances, the non-use of clerical clothing on the part of the cleric can manifest a weak sense of his own identity as a pastor completely dedicated to the service of the Church... 

At a winkel we spoke of the role of the chaplain, well described by one who is an ATF chaplain.  He spoke of the need for the chaplain to police and fire services to maintain the expectation of holy conversation and behavior.  So, for example, when service members would say to him "Oh, geez, I better watch what I say cause the chaplain is here," he would say "You bet you need to clean up your act."  At first I thought that might be off putting but the more I thought about it, the more I resonated to it.  Where the Pastor goes, he ought to engender some self-control and attention to holiness of life and speech just by his presence.  That does not mean he is unapproachable but that he is not some guy on the street either.  He is the one who is called by God and on whom the Church has conferred the authority of the office. He bears the office wherever he goes and the clerical dress he wears signifies that office.  He is a man of God -- not by virtue of personal holiness as an achievement but as the one through whom God speaks His Word, imparts His forgiveness, and bestows His sacramental grace.  Dress ought to recognize this calling.

My wife the CCU nurse has often recounted stories where guys show up in the hospital to visit members saying they are clergy but dressed like bums off the street (no offense to the bums meant).  If we want to be recognized as Pastors, if we are not embarrassed by or ashamed of our calling, then let us dress the part.  I honestly do not get what the big deal is against this.  Unlike the ordinary rules of Rome, this paragraph directs in charity and reasoned eloquence why clerical dress is both important and desirable.  What is so hard about this?


Janis Williams said...

The argument here is the same as the argument against "formal" (i.e. liturgical) services. Heaven forbid (not really) the services in the church or the pastor's dress should be different than everyone/thing else.

We have ritual in our public domain. As the old example goes, just watch a football game. We have ritual in our private lives. Do you eat the food on your plate in a certain order? Do you brush your teeth the same way every day?

If we are not shocked by the UPS uniform on the guy delivering the Christmas gifts we ordered online, why should we be upset if 'men of the cloth' wear that cloth?

I don't know about you, but if I'm lying on the gurney waiting for surgery, and the surgeon comes in wearing dirty tennis shoes, a hawaiian shirt, with a margaritai in his hand, I'm getting off the table!

Hurrah for pastors willing to advertise their vocation daily.

Anonymous said...

A pastor wearing that has to be 100% unambivalent in his identity in his role. If he worries what people will think, he isn't going to wear that.