I had my first dog-collar dilemma last week. Wear a collar or not? It’s a question that has dogged me throughout training. Not every minister wears a dog collar, and every minister that does has her or his own reasons for wearing one. I’m not out to dis the dog collared clergy. Some clergy don’t have a choice, as their denomination or church requires it. But I am not sure how I feel about it for me. And so far, when I pray, God has been surprisingly quiet about it. To be fair, I am not a minister – just a student – so one could question if I even have the right to wear a collar. Still- I do have a dog-collared shirt in my wardrobe in case of clerical emergencies.
Last week though was nearly the first day. Nearly.
As I got dressed that morning, I thought of the day I had in front of me. My main task – help a heavily pregnant woman who speaks very little English register at an NHS doctor. That was it.
And I was dreading it.
Not because of the woman. She is fantastic!
But rather because of – well – people. The news tells me that people hate immigrants, that the NHS can’t cope, that people want out of the EU, that people want to build walls!
I wondered for a moment – what if the “people” made it difficult for my friend to get the medical help she needed? What if the “people” didn’t welcome her? What if they were, you know, mean?
Then I saw the shirt hiding in my wardrobe – the clerical shirt. The shirt that commands authority (so I am told), the shirt that opens doors, and puts people at ease. The shirt that tells people – “Hey! This person is on a mission from God” in hopes that they might be more inclined to help. Maybe?
But I didn’t wear the clerical shirt. I wondered if it would be an abuse of the collar to wear it for those reasons. Instead, I wore my usual clothes.
And guess what? The news is wrong about the “people.”
PEOPLE GENUINELY CARE! The woman at the GP’s receptionist desk could not have been more helpful. The other local people whom we met along the way, too, were kind. People don’t need coercing into compassion.
But that wasn’t my only surprise. She (the woman I was meant to be helping, the woman with nothing) fed me lunch.
And at the end our morning, when we sat on a rug in her living room and broke pita bread over a bowl of yogurt for dipping, I realised this is really what the whole God-sending-His-son-Jesus-not-to-condemn-the-world-thing is all about.
Vulnerability, trusting, journeying, and sharing.
God, forgive me for trying to make it about what I wear.