I read a blog once that talked about how pastors should dress like…well…pastors. Much of the emphasis was on clergy wearing “clerics”- black clothes with a white collar. (For you Protestant readers, picture the stereotypical Catholic priest garb and you are at least on the right track.) The article was interesting. (I didn’t agree with…MUCH of it, but it was interesting.) The comments were also interesting. Some agreed completely. Others were a bit “on the fence”. Still others talked about being laughed out of their churches if they showed up in “clerics”.
A large part of the blog focused on the fact that other professionals wear the “uniform” of their trade. Policemen wear a uniform. Firemen wear a uniform. Doctors wear a lab coat. Attorneys wear pinstripe suits. You get the idea. The author intimated that the clothes help delineate who they are and what role they serve. And because of that…pastors should dress like pastors.
Let me stop and make a side comment here- everybody is entitled to their opinion. That’s what makes this country great. You think one way. I think another. We agree to disagree. America! And I’m sure it is obvious by now that, at least at some level, I’m going to agree to disagree with the author of the blog!
Is there anything wrong with a pastor wearing clerics? Not at all. Is there anything wrong with a pastor wearing a suit and tie every day? Nope. The problem arises when someone who chooses to dress that way, or is required to dress that way by their denomination, has the notion that, because THEY wear those clothes…that’s how “pastors” should dress.
I had a parishioner once who didn’t care for the way I dressed- no tie every day. She said, and I quote, “Pastor So and So (OK, so it’s not an exact quote! I didn’t want to actually use the pastor’s name!) even mowed his lawn in a shirt and tie!” My response didn’t help! “Well, bully for Pastor So and So! But I can GUARANTEE that you will NEVER see me mowing my lawn in a shirt and tie!” I also know a now-retired pastor who, toward the end of his active ministry, earned a DMin- a Doctor of Ministry degree. After that, he insisted…demanded…that people call him “Doctor”. When “Pastor” or “Reverend” would come out of someone’s mouth, he would interrupt them, “Doctor!”
The reality is that we do NOT earn respect simply by what we wear or what we insist people call us. Don’t believe me? If you’re like me, you were told to call adults Mr. and Mrs. when you were growing up- a sign of respect. But did you actually respect all of them? Of course you didn’t- some of them were big jerks! Have you had a doctor, all decked out in the snazzy white lab coat, that you couldn’t stand? Of course you have! (My first oncologist didn’t even wear a lab coat most of the time- GASP!- and he is considered one of the best in the country!)
I have worn everything there is to wear in the ministry- robes, collars, suits, ties…the whole nine yards. And over the years I have decided two things about the whole topic- none of it guarantees respect and I am MUCH more comfortable in something OTHER than a robe or a suit. And quite frankly, when I’m more comfortable, I’m more effective at what I do.
I go by Rev. Mark. The last 2 churches I served were used to that. The church I currently serve was more used to Pastor than Rev. when I got here. I told them that A. I go by Rev. Mark…because I have to call myself something, B. they are welcome to call me Rev. Mark, Pastor Mark, Mark or whatever and C. I really don’t care!! (I suggested they could call me NEARLY anything as long as they didn’t call me late for dinner! (Buh Doom Ching! Thank you! I’ll be here all week!)
We earn respect by who we are and what we do- day in and day out. Period. Respect is earned in the trenches, not in the clothes closet.
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