Why I Wear My Collar

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By: Abp. D. E. Chase, Ph.D. OSP
Presiding Archbishop & Patriarch

The world has many signs and symbols. We are taught from our youth how to discern and decipher weather signs, and in some households, the practice of observing signs from a natural, cultural, spiritual, or occult viewpoint. The Clerical, Roman, or Clergy collar is a spiritual and mystical sign, meant to be a sign to people, but also, a constant reminder to the Priest of the Lord of who they are, what they are and why they are.

Clerical Collars in modern usage have become recognized as a part of a “uniform.” The uniform calls for the individual wearer to fashion themselves in a manner prescribed by an ecclesiastical authority, which is often borrowed from the views and concepts of established Church orders throughout the world. In fact, most of the garments, vestments and accessories we darn as clergy are often borrowed much in the same way.

So, why do we wear Clerical Collars? To answer this question we must first acknowledge the established meaning and purpose of the same. According to BBC News Magazine, “The clerical, or Roman, collar is a sign or mark of a person’s holy calling, according to the Church of England. It is an identifying badge that can be recognised by people of all faiths. Worn by both Anglican and Roman Catholic priests around the world, the narrow, stiff, upright white collar fastens at the back.”

HISTORY:

Let us examine the actual history the Clerical Collar.

The detachable clerical collar was invented in 1865 by the Rev. Donald Mcleod, a Church of Scotland (Presbyterian) minister in Glasgow. (Glasgow Herald of December 6, 1894)

By the mid-1800s, the clergy of the Anglican Communion developed a sense of separation between themselves and the secular world. One of the most distinctive, external symbols of said separation was the implementation of distinguishing clerical dress. Originally, clerical dress was identified by the black coat and white necktie which had been worn for several decades. By the 1880s this had been transformed into the clerical collar, which was worn almost continuously by the greater part of clergy for the rest of the period.

Henry McCloud stated that the collar “was nothing else than the shirt collar turned down over the cleric’s everyday common dress in compliance with a fashion that began toward the end of the sixteenth century. For when the laity began to turn down their collars, the clergy also took up the mode.”

The Clerical Collar was Invented within the Presbyterian Church, of which was adopted by other Christian denominations, including the Roman Catholic Church, Anglican Church, Methodist churches, Eastern Orthodox Church, Baptist churches and the Lutheran churches. Prior to the Second Vatican Council (1962–1965) the practice of Roman Catholic clergy wearing the clerical collar as street-dress tended to be found only in those countries where Roman Catholicism was the minority religion. The use of Clerical Collars was mandatory for U.S. Catholic priests starting in 1884.

Preaching Tabs in the Reformed tradition, which stresses preaching as a central concern, pastors often wear preaching tabs, which project from their clerical collar. Preaching bands (an alternative name for tabs) are also worn by Anglican clergy, particularly on occasions such as inductions when choir dress of cassock, surplice, preaching scarf (Tippet) and the academic hood pertaining to degree is worn, as well as at Mattins and Evensong. Lutheran and Methodist clergy sometimes attach preaching bands to their clerical collars as well.

Denominational Practices:

The clerical collar is worn by all ranks of clergy. Bishops, Priests, and Deacons, and often seminarians who have been admitted to candidacy for the priesthood along with their cassock during liturgical celebrations use the Clerical Collar.

Clerical Collars are typically worn by clergy of groups such as those of the Anglican, Methodist, Presbyterian and Lutheran traditions. However, many Scandinavian Lutheran clergy wear the ruff instead. Additionally, many Pentecostal and non-denominational Protestants, as well as others wear collars. In the Roman Catholic tradition, major seminarians, after receiving admission to candidacy (and thus becoming “candidates” for ordination), often wear clericals in the seminary or in their dioceses.

WHY I WEAR MY CLERICAL COLLAR:

As we have noted in the beginning of this article, the Clerical Collar is a significant tool to express the symbolism of the calling upon one’s life. It separates the clergy from the world, I that it implies that there is a separation between the called and chosen from the laity. It expresses the identity of the wearer as a member of the three major offices (Deacon, Priest, Bishop).

However, if you ask me why I wear my Clerical Collar, the answer is quite simple…

  • It represents years of study and dedication to the Lord and His Church
  • It identifies me as not just a servant, but a Priest of the Most High God
  • It signifies the sacrifice that the Lord has made for me, and my duty to Him
  • It reminds me that I am not above the people of God, rather their humble servant on behalf of the Lord

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