Signs pointing to signs pointing to signs

I liked Jody's poem the other week which she meshed together from people's descriptions of a priest. I contributed the word 'sign,' to communicate a priest acting as a signpost to Jesus. Clerical clothes perhaps do this too, pointing away from ourselves and towards what we are all about. I am still wondering whether the clerical-collar puts people off and causes a barrier or not. I know that low evangelical denominations rarely wear clerical clothing. High church folk seem to like it a lot and I am beginning to learn that there are even certain ways of wearing a clerical-collar: all the way around your neck communicates a particular theological flavour, I think...

On the whole, I am probably a little naive about some of the clothing significances. There are cassocks with 39 buttons and some clergy leave a button undone on the articles they are less convinced about, which could prove a little distracting if those buttons happened to fall in particular places!

I wonder if other professions communicate such a range of various things with their attire. It is almost as if clerical clothes point explicitly to what we are all about, as well as implicitly to the theological distinctives that many will miss. There is an honesty and a hiddenness.

Photos from Wipples

There are also those who conform to wearing the attire but can not help but want to communicate something about their own personality too, much as we did creative things with ties when we wore our school uniforms.

Some of this stuff is interesting, for the most part, it is not. Often I guess it's for practical reasons. I didn't get for a long time why I would need a 'funeral cape,' in which I look like something out of a goth/rock festival, but I am assured it will keep me warm, look appropriate and help me to manage service books because of its sleeves. Allegedly, it also enables you to do the 'one hand undo button and fling into nearest pew,' move, as you enter the church in front of a coffin carried by undertakers, who will not stop mid-procession for you to undo the toggles on your M&S mac. Some of it just makes sense.

So some of it is fairly stylish, if a bit austere...

It doesn't have to look too awful.

...so when it comes to choosing stoles, I think I might have failed to be a sign pointing to a sign, with clothes that are further carrying signs! I think I might have even deliberately stopped sign-posting. The one that I have chosen really does not communicate anything much at all, apart from being really rather nice...or at least it appeals to me. On seeing it I simply said: 'Oh that is sooo lovely...,' and I quite forgot I was shopping for clerical clothing and just started to rather enjoy myself. I am left wondering now quite how penitent I should be for such an over-indulgent flight of fancy! ;-)

Stole by Heather Marshall - other creative and more 'religious' stoles available. 

And thanks to Nancy who reminds me that they are clerical collars rather than 'dog-collars.'


Lucy Mills said...

My hubby refuses point- blank to ever wear a dog collar. (The fact his mother would like it makes it even less likely!!) And yes I suppose we do count as 'low evangelical', although our other minister sometimes wears one, especially when she's conducting a funeral.

You really wanted to know all that, didn't you...?!

Rachel said...

...actually you would be surprised, I do like to know... I am such a typical girl and I do bother about what I am wearing, there is a big part of me who rather delights in the idea of simply selecting one of seven clerical shirts to put on (okay maybe 5 - forget Saturday and my day-off). What a blessed relief, can use my imagination for other things rather than putting outfits together... but I am not sure I can drum up the theological convictions to facilitate the grounds for this...and perhaps the theology should come first...;-)

Thanks Lucy

Anonymous said...

witness & identity are very important -that's my rationale - I know SO SO many clergy who have had amazing encounters & conversations with people b/c of the collar.
that black dress you describe as austere looks fab in my opinion :)

you can see some of my stoles on FB should you be interested;)!

it is important though to think about it all and I don't think we should feed "bad" for doing so, after all we'd consider the " uniform" in any other job...
my cassock has 39 buttons, and I know people talk about the leaving some undone thing - but I've not come across anyone who actually does!

Hope you come to a conclusion that works for you :)

Rachel said...

Thanks fibre-fairy
I am trying to think it all through - got a lot of different people's points of view all flying around in my head at the moment - praying for a bit of clarity. I'll take a look at your designs. x


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A little background reading so we might mutually flourish when there are different opinions