Thursday, 22 May 2008

Should I wear a dog collar?

At the moment on Sundays I wear a jacket (or suit) and tie.

I am shortly to be ordained a presbyter in the Church of God (priest in the Church of England to be more specific). If I am going to change to wearing a dog collar regularly at Christ Church in the next 3 years, this is probably the convenient moment to do it.

Please give me all your reasons why I should or should not wear one for Lord's Day worship.


James Oakley said...

Starter for 10: Doug Wilson's post entitled Ministerial Milquetoastery

Anonymous said...

I guess it probably ought to depend on what Alistair does. imo, you should follow suit - allow him to lead in this area as well. I wear a collar on Sundays, and like doing so, because it identifies me as one of the pastors at St John's. It reminds me (and I hope others in the congregation) of my role, and of my responsibilities to the saints at St John's. I'm personally not given, as best I know myself, to the temptations outlined in DW's blog post; my temptations are twofold: either to shrink into the corner, or, when up front, to perform, and try to entertain people. I find the collar helps me to deal with both temptations.

ros said...

Yes, wear it. All the cool kids do.

Anonymous said...

Well argued, Ros!

I realise it's a logical fallacy, but the older I get, the more important the conclusion becomes to me (what will I be like when my girls are teenagers?!):

All the cool kids wear clerical collars
I wear a clerical collar

Neil Jeffers said...

Thanks all.

I was surprised by DW - even in a collar, one could hardly accuse him of femininity!

Other arguments?

Anonymous said...

Jeff Meyers has a chapter in THe Lord's Service where he argues for robes in the liturgy, and collars at other times. Probably worth a look if you haven't already done so. And he's got something online here.

Michael McClenahan said...

Will anyone else be sporting a decent tie knot? Church may just seem a lot less elegant without your knotting skills on display.

Isn't the question what does the generation about us do? We simply have to make sure we are different.

Marc Lloyd said...

(1) The canons of the church of England require you to wear a sign of your holy calling

(2) The Bible shows that God likes symbolic clothing

(3) The dog collar is a good symbol of authority and humility. You are Christ's slave. You serve the people by speaking Jesus' commands (etc) to them.

(4) It looks nice. Smart but it isnt too flashy. Its easy to know what tie to wear - quicker to get dressed so saves time for other ministry!

(5) It is traditional and catholic.

(6) Lots of people like it.

(7) Some of the best people do it.

(8) It is helpful for people to be able to identify the minister easily.

Ideally, dog collar every day except lawful recreation. Loevly robes on Lord's Day for service of covenantal renewal. You know it makes sense.

I dont think you necessarily need to do the same thing as your boss unless he asks you to, though I;m sure you'll ask him if he minds. Christian freedom a good thing. We need not be clones. The regulative principle that tells us that dog collars are the most appropriate form of dress does not say that we MUST wear one, nor is it so clear that your boss is deliberately sinning by not wearing one.

There could be good reasons for you to wear a dog collar which dont apply so much to your boss e.g. you are younger and less well known so it is useful for you to be more identifiable.

I wear a dog collar every day, my boss doesnt. No problems.

See e.g. James Jordan, Sociology of the Church on Investiture, clerical garb etc.

Marc Lloyd said...

I've just read Pastor Wilson's post.

I agree about the danger of love of fine robes to be seen etc. These would apply to the collar.

But I cant see how the collar is at all effeminate.

Neil Jeffers said...

Thank you all.

Ros and Matthew: you should know by now that being "a cool kid" is unlikely to recommend itself to me!

Michael: there are other tie-knotters at church. Can you explain more fully your point about the surrounding generation please?

Marc, thank you, very helpful. My boss does wear one on Sundays and occasionally elsewhere. I shall follow up the references. Wilson's point was not that the collar itself is effeminate, but that its use over 300 years has given it those connotations. Surely you muts be able to recognise that - Jane Austen, Jeeves & Wooster, Trollope etc?

James Oakley said...

Read Wilson slightly more carefully folks.

He's not saying that the collar is effeminate in and of itself.

He's saying that by putting it on, you identify with others who wear it. People who see you wearing one will assume your effeminacy unless and until your demeanor shows them the contrary. Therefore, when wearing one, be aware that you become effeminate without even trying, and need to be consciously resolved not to reinforce that.

Marc Lloyd said...

Well, couldn't you say that the association of effeminecy is with ministers generally not just with those who wore clerical colars? Are non-conformist and other less likely to wear clerical collars clergy generally thought to be more manly? Even if its a matter of connotation and association not denotation or the dog collar in itself, I still can't see really how it is a connotation of dog collars in particualr and not minsters in general. Do you see what I mean?

Marc Lloyd said...

If your boss already wears one I think that is a strong argument that you should follow his lead, though I don't think your obliged to. What does he think?

Anonymous said...

Make your mind up Marc. Is it an argument one way or the other or not? If Neil shouldn't feel obliged to follow his boss's lead, then it isn't. You're presupposing that Neil has decided that a clerical collar is a good thing. I still think it's good for us to follow our boss's in this, and let them set the tone. We believe in the significance and power of symbols, so whether or not our bosses think it's important what we do in this regard, following their lead or not will send out a signal that may be all the more potent for being inadvertant.

Anonymous said...

Hmm. Second 'boss's' should be 'bosses'.

Dawn said...

Hey Neil,
Haven't read Doug Wilson's post, and these are just a few random thoughts....
Do you have to go one way or the other? Maybe some Sundays you could wear it and other Sundays not...that way it doesn't become "our ministers always wear dog collars" - although I suppose that may cause issues.
In the church I grew up in it people were adamant that the vicar should wear a dog collar because they were of that opinion "thats what vicars have always done" - and this and other things became major issues for the church instead of the gospel (does that make sense?)
Personally, I'd prefer vicars not to wear them.
And I know Matthew mentioned that it reminds vicars of their role but (sorry Matthew) you shouldn't need to wear your dog collar to remind you of your role.
I think if people in the church are not going to submit to their vicar's leadership etc I don't think that attitude will be changed if you put on a dog collar to remind them who you are. That's a heart issue...
Sorry all a bit waffley - coming to the end of holiday club week!!!
Looking forward to seeing you all in July very much :-)
And last thing....I think you're cool dog collar or not!

Matthew said...

Dawn, I'm sure you're right on lots of that. But I think we've become accustomed to viewing our pastors as just "Matthew, who's a good (or not so good) bloke." That's just plain wrong, and so having a 'uniform' of some kind reinforces the fact that, in relation to the congregation I serve (and, in fact, to the wider church of Christ), I'm not good-old/bad-old Matthew Mason, but I'm someone set aside and ordained to the office of elder. A collar (and, preferably during the liturgy, robes), reinforces that: I'm not there just as me, but as an elder in the Church of Christ.

Matthew said...

Put another way, in one sense a judge doesn't need his robes and wig, nor a policeman his uniform to remind himself and others of his role; they have authority by virtue of their role, not their clothing. But God has created us as symbolic creatures. We're shaped and formed by symbolism, and so it is fitting, and helpful for a judge, or policeman, or pastor, to wear what they do to symbolise their role. I think a stronger case can be made for robes than a collar, but in the culture we're in, a collar symbolises to most people that the person wearing it is a pastor. Wilson's point is that it may also symbolize effeminacy, but I think Marc is right - that's something people associate with all pastors/clergy. And, in the absence of a better, or even alternative, and fairly catholic symbol, a clerical collar is probably the best we can do.

Marc Lloyd said...

Yes, Matthew, I want it both ways. But I still think Neil isn't obliged to follow his boss in this but if he can that's happy. And I'm sure Neil knows he ought to wear one even if he surpresses the truth ... !? :)

By the way, Neil, to avoid effeminacy, it may be best to avoid pink clerical shirts.

And perhaps a big bushy (OT prophet / Reformer / Doug Wilson) type beard would help too?



Pete said...

Marc, that's an excellent idea about the beard. And a far better symbol for eldership than a dog collar too! :)

Neil Jeffers said...

Well, you all seem to have dried up, though I think this has been my most productive post yet.

My boss, Matthew, does wear a collar on Sundays, and is happy for me to do either.Dawn, I'll make sure I'm not wearing one when you visit.

Marc, thank you for your numbered list, perhaps the most substantial contribution so far.

1) Doesn't blue shirt and chinos count as sign of a holy calling - it always used to work at the barber shop in Southgate.

2) Possibly, but I don't see any dog collars there.

3) Why? I'm not convinced many people associate it with humility and servitude. When they were invented in the 19thC by an Anglican minister called Donald McLeod, they were just a combination of the traditional white preaching tabs with the common detachable collar of the day.

4) Some people think it looks nice. I never have a problem choosing a tie - I guess some of us are just blessed with style.

5) Traditional for 150 years or so. Yes, it is catholic, worn by many denominations.

6) Many people don't.

7) Maany of the best don't - Wilson as one prominent example.

8) Yes.

I'm not sure there is a regulative principle that says anything about dog collars.

Do you really wear one every day? Even if it's a study day at home where you're unlikely to meet anyone?

Dawn said...

Neil, thank you for making me laugh out loud this morning. As I read your reponse to Marc's points I thought of all you lovley ordinands from Oak Hill..."I guess some of us are just blessed with style" :-)

Marc Lloyd said...

I don't always wear it at home, nor in bed, nor on holiday etc. but I put a clerical shirt on pretty much every work day and wear my collar if I go out mostly, even if its just to walk the dog.

Have you decided what you are going to do yet?

Michael McClenahan said...

Neil: I think (though it was some time ago) that I meant to write generation 'above us.' That should clarify it - the next generation of leaders always have to be a bit different to the former. I'm sure Freud or sin can explain it.

Marc Lloyd said...

Peter Sanlon has asked about clerical garb at:

And links to this article:

Pete said...

Hi Neil,

I honestly dont know what the best answer to this question is. I had cause to ponder it recently for myself.

I wont repeat anything others have said but two things that I thought of as I reflected on it last week (which could push you in either direction on the debate):

1. Many people make their mind up one way or the other simply as a reaction against whatever they have experienced in others. This is not a good way to make a decision.

2. Whatever we do, we should realise that given time, our practice will in all likelihood need to be reassessed and dare I say it - reformed! Old Cranmer said something about that in his preface to the BCP.

Hope that helps, Im glad that I dont have to worry about issue for a year or two more!

God bless, Peter