Friday, 5 February 2010

A roomful of dog collars

Yesterday, I was on a diocesan training thing. I was a running late and just managed to walk into the event just on time. Entering the room I was confronted by about 30 men and women seemingly all wearing dog collars and black shirts.

Now, I shouldn't have been surprised at this, I'm a vicar you know, but I was. In fact I was shocked at my feelings as I must admit to feeling a little scared. It felt like going back 30 years, maybe more. It felt oppressive. It felt odd.

Now, obviously as the event went on I discovered these were very nice people who were doing some good things.

But really, is it any wonder the Church is struggling to reach out effectively in the 21st century? If I, a rector, found it hard to deal with it what chance the people who have no experience of Church.

One of the significant things I've found since I've stopped wearing clerical dress is that people relate to me much more openly and honestly. It's led to me having more significant pastoral converstions and greater opportunities to talk about what I really believe. They say that they can relate better to me because I don't wear a collar.

I'm sure our move to informality, in Aldridge, has led to church growth. It seems to declutter any explanation of the Gospel. There's less barriers to get through. It shows people that Church Leaders can be normal. A common thing I'm told, as a compliment, is 'you're just like one of us.'

That to me seems incarnational, so I'm going to stick with it. I can't think of any theological or Biblical reasons why I need to change (my clothes)?


  1. Hi Richard, I have also ditched the dog collar and can relate to what you say. When I blogged on this subject, why I don't wear a dog collar, it attracted a few of comments defending the collar. I'd like to know if the people defending it were clergy or not.

  2. Perhaps a bit early for me - and maybe it helps being a fat bird in a smock and a collar - but I have found that random people in the street are more likely to talk to me when I wear it. Somehow it automatically makes me less of a stranger. I'll never know how many people won't open up to me because of it but it doesn't appear to be a barrier so far. Not sure I feel a need to defend either position - and would be equally happy in either context.

    (PS - ignore blog that this is attached to - I decided blogging wasn't really for me)

  3. I agree with the last comment, I actually find that when I wear a dog collar it actually enables people to come and talk to me, and share things they wouldn't normally share with a stranger.

    The clergy who help out on Drinkers Ministry in Walsall are now being encouraged to wear their dog collars, because people are responding positively to it. They see the person wearing a dog collar as someone who they can talk to, and trust.

    Wearing a dog collar especially when out shopping or in town, can in some ways be a Christian witness. I think it is sometimes good when people see young clergy wearing dog collars.

    I don't wear the dog collar all the time, but I do feel it still has a function to serve. And I find that whatever I wear, if I try to be open and honest with people, they will be open and honest with me.

  4. I think my vicar wears his dog collar in bed!
    He went to give blood, on his day off, and was wearing his dog collar - why?!

  5. "since I've stopped wearing clerical dress is that people relate to me much more openly and honestly."

    That's a relatively easy thing to measure. It is a lot harder to measure the number of people who haven't related to you at all because they didn't recognise that you were a vicar!

    Not saying you're wrong, but there may be a bit more to it than you think. There are occasions where you need a platform and the MG doesn't quite cut it...

  6. I'm not being flippant when I ask this: why don't all Christians wear dog collars if it is such a great way of starting Christian conversations with people in the street?

  7. @Transforminggrace: because it doesn't go with the kipper badges worn for the same reason :-)