Ok , so the title above will generate some controversy as I’ve heard well meaning people saying pastors shouldn’t wear clergy collars (sometimes referred to unkindly as dog collars) We are accused of hiding behind our collars, distancing ourselves from people and more. But please hear me out. I don’t often wear a collar but will usually do when I am doing hospital visits. So in that context let me make a case for the humble collar.
I believe the collar gives pastors an air of legitimacy. Not only do I get more attention from the staff on duty it also gives me the opportunity to walk up to other beds and have conversations with other patients. Pastors who visit patients know what a blessing it is to bring something of Christ to not just the church member being visited but also others in the ward also. I’ll share one example among many that has convinced me of wearing my collar as often as is practical:
I once visited a patient in the Acute Care Unit of Newham Teaching Hospital sometime ago. As I was leaving a heavily bearded muslim man in his late 70’s on the bed opposite waved for me to come over. Here’s how the conversation went:
Muslim Patient: Are you a priest? (He’d noticed my collar and clergy shirt)
Me: Yes (and although I’m Baptist I silently pled the priesthood of all believers)
Muslim Patient: Will you pray for me?
Me: Of course, what do you want me to pray for? Why are here?
Muslim Patient: I have a heart condition
Me: Proceeded to vocally and fervently pray for his healing in the name of Jesus (no it wasn’t Pentecostal style, I was in the Acute Care Unit remember?)
Muslim Patient: Holds tightly to my hand and kisses it with tears in his eyes. Tells me as a Muslim he believes Jesus to be a great prophet too.
Me: I silently pray that God will bring him to a full realisation of the person of Christ
I continued with some small talk for about ten minutes, discovered he was a retired postmaster, lived locally and had a grown up son now minding the business. I left believing the rest was up to God. My point is this, if I didn’t wear the collar he probably wouldn’t have asked for prayer. There are other ‘collar’ stories I could share and will do so some other time.