A couple of weeks ago, my Lay Ministry Committee (advisory committee for residency) was discussing my identity as clergy or pastor since I am appointed "beyond the local church." One person suggested that every clergy person should wear a clerical collar at least 3 days a week, especially when going into public places. Now most clergy in my denomination don't wear collars, but a few do. He went on to discuss how some clergy who come to our office have an "air" of clergy about them. It is definitely part of their identity. Others don't have that air everywhere they go, but seem to put on that identity when needed.
I asked myself, "When do I wear a virtual clerical collar?" When do I carry that identity and authority and where don't I?" I've been stewing over this for several days. There have been plenty of days in the last year when my position seemed more administrative than pastoral, but I think that can happen for pastors appointed in the local church as well.
Then, as I got dressed one morning this week and opted for pumps instead of casual flats, I realized my pumps are one way I put on that virtual collar. When I worked at the hospital, I gave up any form of shoes that weren't flat with plenty of support. I was on my feet a lot with 900 beds on 11 floors. When I walked into a room and introduced myself as the chaplain, the collar was on - real or not. Shoes didn't matter. When I left the hospital, I stuck with my flats. Now, I'm short and round and flat shoes make me look shorter and rounder. When I wear pumps with a moderate heel, I stand straighter and walk with more authority. HMMMM. Interesting. Pretty much the only time I wear pumps has been when I'm preaching or leading a meeting - in other words when I'm being pastoral. So the current line of thinking is, if I need to extend that identity to more of my days and more of my functions, then perhaps I should forego the flats a little more often.
For some of you, this discussion with myself may seem odd. I know folks who think either you are, or you aren't clergy, but after 20 years as a special education teacher, my professional identity has been slowly changing. I knew I was making progress when at a Support Group for Parents of Children with Special Needs, my first concern was for their theological understanding of disability before worrying about "teacher" type concerns.
This aha moment is brought to you courtesy of some work I'm doing in terms of "The Woman I Want to Be." Watch for upcoming blogs.