Sunday, December 20, 2009

Clericals extended

When I got back my dad congratulated me on my clerical-wearing adventure and said "that's something you'll be able to look back on for many years."
Oh. Let me explain...
This was not a one-shot fun thing. I'm considering repeating this transgression of pastoral comfort level on a regular basis.
I have always been slightly infatuated with the concept of obvious clerical garb... priests in robes, monks in sackcloth or whatever, nuns in crazy wimples especially... and although I have tried other methods, collar-wearing in ridiculously public situations is the first scenario that has come close to satisfying my infatuation.
I've worn crosses, all kinds of crosses, taize crosses, Jesus fish, and only gotten a few comments. The Jesus fish are so trendy, and so teenager, and the crosses are so ubiquitous as jewelry. The Taize emblem gets a few people who recognize it, and a few who ask what the heck it is... I've worked up a little speech explaining Taize in less than a minute, but usually the conversation goes no further. The word "monastery" might be an off-put.

But this collar is something I like. It gets the quizzical questions, of course, the "are you a.... priest-..ess??" which are usually more about my gender than about the possibility of me being religious. It also gets the matter-of-fact "so you must be a pastor" comments, and the thirty-second conversations that end with me and my work being "God-bless-ed" by the initiator of the conversation.

I saw a teenage girl dropped off by her mother in the Chicago station. It was her first time traveling alone and she was quite nearly panicked. Mom found a young Navy sailor in uniform, traveling on the same train, and charged him with making sure the daughter got to her station and met her uncle okay. I saw him checking on her that evening; he joined her in the cafe car, made polite conversation, and in the morning he carried her bag to her uncle, shook hands goodbye, and got back on the train.
To me that's a great example of wearing a uniform in public, or a visible symbol of your occupation. The same girl glommed onto me in the cafe car, asking me about my collar, and proceeding to tell much of her life story. She made an outright confession to me about a raccoon she'd accidentally killed a few years ago (and all the guilt she carried from that!) I simply told her that it sounded like she'd done her best to save his little life, and that we can never do better than our best efforts. She took this to heart, thanked me, and said it was good to hear that "from someone who's -- um -- who's basically almost a priestess already"

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