The Collar

God has been good to Holy Cross Anglican Church, the parish I serve in the Milwaukee area. We routinely have visitors who are looking and seeking a deeper walk with Jesus. We’ve even had a whole family who converted to the faith. Holy Cross used to be St. Edmund’s Episcopal and left the Episcopal Diocese of Milwaukee in 2008.[1] A recent visitor who used to be Roman Catholic, and then went through a few Protestant denominations, asked why I wear a collar. My normal response is that the collar is part of my uniform. I also tell people that I wear the collar to keep me in check and in line. Often the collar works!

Her husband and two adult sons love our church, but for the wife, it has been a hard transition. Many questions, many wounds, many hard issues. This family’s journey has left many question and fears. One fear is that we look too Roman, and all that Rome does is wrong including the collar.

I struggle sometimes about the collar, when I should wear it. When I am on my way home from church and going to the store, do I take the tab off? Or do I keep it in? I remember the first time I wore the collar the day I was ordained a deacon. It felt weird and I thought everyone was staring at me.

The origins of the clergy collar is of some doubt. It is popularly passed along that it was developed by a Presbyterian minister, Rev. Donald Mcleod in 1865 but no one really knows.[2] But by the 1840’s Anglican clergy had been wearing distinctive dress to acknowledge they had taken vows for holy orders. Their dress was normally a black coat or cassock and white tie around the neck. By the 1880’s this morphed into the tab and band collars we know today. Ironically Roman Catholics did not wear this collar until many years later. It was not until Vatican II that it became regularized for Rome.[3] It is really not a Roman collar, if anything a Protestant or Presbyterian collar.

Bishop Ackerman tells a story, that while in a busy city, wearing his clericals, and walking down a sidewalk near a car accident, he was called over by a policeman to pray for a woman who was injured. My bishop, +Julian Dobbs has encouraged all his clergy to regularly wear their collar’s in public as he has had numerous opportunities to share the gospel. I know of one priest who frequents a local Starbucks and puts up a little sign that says, “FREE PRAYER”. He has many who stop by for his ministry.

Recently, I drove to a local grocery store following a day working at hospice. I had my usual inner debate, “should I take the tab out or keep it in while I am in the store?” I kept it in. I did my shopping and went to the check-out line. The clerk, who was a young woman asked me how my day was, and I said “good”. I asked her the same. There was a long pause. She said good, but that would “change because she was going home soon.” She had her head down and looking up at me to see my reaction. I asked her if she felt safe when she was at home. Another long pause. I was so glad the store was slow as no one else was in my line. She looked up at me and said, “no, I don’t”. I then replied, “everyone should feel safe at home”. I then informed her about the local women’s shelter in our city and give her the phone number on one of my card’s and encouraged her to call. My heart broke for her and was very glad I wore my collar to the store. I am certain that if I did not wear the collar, I would have been just another man in line, and she would not have shared her plight with me.

  1. As found on 07/25/19 at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/St._Edmund%27s_Anglican_Church
  2. https://colvinism.wordpress.com/2013/12/01/who-really-invented-the-clerical-collar/?fbclid=IwAR0GHJPT9rf1EXoIM_9lFQK56zC9tPFY1KPZ4Yb6z_Hu4zK44HQGnG9urSY
  3. As found on 07/25/19 at https://www.mycollarsandcuffs.com/2016/09/20/history-of-the-clerical-collar/

Fr. Patrick Malone

Archdeacon Patrick Malone is Chaplain at Ascension Home and Hospice, and Rector of Holy Cross Anglican Church.


'The Collar' have 4 comments

  1. July 26, 2019 @ 5:03 pm (NA Anglican) Fr. Patrick Malone–The Collar | TitusOneNine

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  2. July 27, 2019 @ 1:32 pm The Rev. Carl D. Mann

    I wear the collar everywhere except on my days off. When I used to travel more, the collar was responsible for what I called “truck stop” ministry, because of the number of people who would freely talk to me about very personal things, which I doubt would have happened had I been “out of uniform.”

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  3. July 28, 2019 @ 7:47 pm Sudduth Cummings

    Your experience with the clergy collar is common I think. I felt strange at first but soon wore it everywhere–except when I was rector of the downtown parish in San Antonio and my wife was with me we decided not to hold hands since it obviously brought discomfort and even offense to the Hispanic passers by. Also, I’ve never worn a tab collar thinking it as not Anglican but a Roman Catholic example of poor taste–and I still think of it as a bit reductionist–not be critical, of course, of those who do choose to wear one! 🙂 I do think the full band collar is a power effective witness in public.

    Reply

  4. August 1, 2019 @ 9:36 am Frances Craig

    Thank you for the history lesson. I was raised in the Episcopal Church, but it was the lowest of the low churches. We were 35 years in an Advent Christian church. So it took a bit of time for me to feel comfortable in our high church Anglican parish… but we love it, smells, bells, and all.

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