Clericals or Ties?

I generally wear a tab collared clerical shirt. I wear these everyday, whether I am visiting shut-ins or not, whether I am conducting a service or not. I’m not dogmatic about this. I really don’t care what other pastors wear. I know some fine pastors who come from the Robert Preus (+) days that typically wear shirts and ties during the week, and clericals for Sunday services. No biggy for me. I wear what I wear because I find that it reminds me constantly of my Call as a pastor.

I wore the neckband for years, but got tired of the sweaty neck (I live in an extremely humid climate). Recently, however, I began teaching at a local college. For this, I purchased some shirts and ties to wear with my slacks, you know, to “look the part.” Today after class I was walking through Wal-Mart doing some shopping, and I noticed that people were a lot more friendly to me than they usually are. Strangers nodded, some even smiled, and chatted with me. And then it dawned on me–I was not dressed like a Priest. The difference was palpable. No one is ever that friendly to me when I go to the store. But then, my attire was not calling attention to my Office or the Christian Gospel. No wonder people were being friendly. Normally children stare at me like I’m some sort of oddity. Today one little boy yelled, “Are you a principal?” Go figure.

As I said, I really don’t care what other clergy wear. Our Church does not prescribe any particular attire, and I’m sure there are many who dress as I do that are not solid theologically. For me, the clothing I wear has as much of an effect on me (if not more so) than it does on the public. When I am wearing my “blacks” I feel as if I am “dressed for the Ministry.” When I wear a shirt and tie, I feel like I am “dressed for teaching” at a state run college.


About Rev. Paul L. Beisel

Graduate of Concordia Theological Seminary, Fort Wayne, IN in 2001 (M Div.) and 2004 (S.T.M.); LC-MS Pastor and Adjunct Instructor for John Wood Community College; Husband of Amy and father of Susan, Elizabeth, Martin, and Theodore.
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7 Responses to Clericals or Ties?

  1. JDart says:

    How about cammies?

    But seriously, I used to get looks when I wore my clerical in town, too. I still wear it sometimes when giving a regular Sunday service while in garrison. It does communicate, but what’s more important is what we communicate with our words and actions. Give me sound theology with shabby clothes any day.

  2. teechrlady says:

    This is from a Roman Catholic site, but good. Some excerpts:

    In a secularized and tendentiously materialistic society, where even the external signs of sacred and supernatural 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.

    18) The Roman collar serves as a “sign of contradiction” to a world lost in sin and rebellion against the Creator. The Roman collar makes a powerful statement: the priest as an has accepted the Redeemer’s mandate to take the Gospel into the public square,
    regardless of personal cost

  3. Bad Ice says:

    Wearing the collar makes you smell like life to some. To others you are the stench of death.

  4. Sam says:

    Interesting post. My experience: My wife taught in north county St. Louis in a Lutheran school (heavily African American). While setting up her classroom I would often make runs to the store for her. When I was dressed in “street clothes” I would be basically ignored or glared at. When I would wear my clerical in the same stores on a Sunday afternoon or when I was in the area making visits the result would be the exact opposite. People would great me and speak with me. It really solidified why I wear a clerical…

  5. My most interesting experience was at a hospital in Seattle, visiting the sainted George Draper. I visited twice in street clothes and once in a clerical. When I was in camoflauge (shirt and tie) people looked at me as if I were one of the doctors or lab techs, or maybe a pharma rep. When I visited in a clerical collar — which George appreciated — some people clearly felt compelled to approach and talk with me. Many clearly tried to avoid contact with me. Some even pressed themselves up against the wall of the corridor as I walked by, as If I were Darth Vader.

    Bad Ice is right.

  6. Carla Bollhagen says:

    The wearing of the clerical shirt is a reminder to YOU that you are a pastor. Come on, do you really need a reminder? How about listening to yourself–you were more approachable when not wearing the clerical. Are you about the business of telling people about Jesus to get them to heaven or you about the business of flaunting that you are a minister? The ministry is about Jesus not about you. If you are consistent you will get yourself some clerical jammies too.

  7. Rev. Paul L. Beisel says:

    Interesting comments. I certainly don’t view my attire as a way to “flaunt” that I am a minister. They are the clothes of a servant. They show that my authority is not my own, but that I represent Christ; and uniforms in general show that one is available to help.

    I made it clear that I am not dogmatic about wearing these. But it sure makes it easier to get into hospitals to see members. And yes, I am definitely in the business of telling people about Jesus and getting them to heaven. Wearing a clerical helps them identify a servant of Christ.

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