By Bishop Steven Lyn Evans
1. The clerical collar is a sign of priestly consecration to the Lord. Just like a wedding ring distinguishes husband and wife and symbolises the union they enjoy, so the clerical collar identifies bishops and priests (pastors) and often deacons.
2. The clerical collar prevents “mixed messages”; other people will recognise the minister’s intentions if he found himself in what might appear to be compromising circumstances. For example, if a priest is required to make pastoral visits to different apartment houses in an area where drug dealing or prostitution is prevalent. In such circumstances the collar sends a clear message to everyone that the priest has come to minister to the sick and needy in Christ’s name. This prevents the possibility of idle speculation that might have been triggered by a minister known to neighbourhood residents visiting dressed as a layman.
3. The clerical collar serves as a necessary challenge to an age drowning in impurity, exhibited by suggestive dress, blasphemous speech and scandalous actions.
4. The clerical collar offers a kind of “safeguard” for oneself, it provides a reminder to the priest himself of his mission and identity: to witness to Jesus Christ, the Great High Priest, as one of his brother-priests.
5. A minister dressed as the Church has historically desired is a reminder of God and of the sacred. The prevailing secular morass is not kind to images which connote the Almighty, the Church, etc. When one wears a clerical collar, the hearts and minds of others are refreshingly raised to the “Higher Being” who is usually relegated to a tiny footnote in the agenda of contemporary culture.
6. A priest in a clerical collar is a walking testimony. The sight of a cheerful, happy priest confidently walking down the street can even be a magnet drawing people towards God. God does the calling; the priest is simply a visible sign God will use to draw people unto himself.
7. The clerical collar makes the minister available at all times for the work of the Gospel to the society at large. Because the clerical collar gives instant recognition, ministers who wear it make themselves more apt to be approached, particularly when seriously needed. Many ministers testify to being summoned for assistance in airports, crowded cities and isolated villages because they were immediately recognised as priests.
8. The clerical collar serves as a “sign of contradiction” to a world lost in sin and rebellion against the Creator. The collar makes a powerful statement: the priest as a living sacrifice has accepted the Redeemer’s mandate to take the Gospel into the public square, regardless of personal cost.
9. The “officers” in Christ’s army should be identifiable as such. Traditionally, we have remarked that believers are “soldiers” of Christ. Those who are ordained as deacons, priests and bishops must also be prepared – whatever the stakes – to shepherd the flock of the Lord. Those priests who wear the clerical collar show their role unmistakably, as leaders in the Church.
10. Your life is not your own; you belong to God in a special way, you are sent out to serve him with your life. When we wake each morning, we should turn our thoughts to our loving God, and ask for the grace to serve him well that day. We remind ourselves of our status as His chosen servants by putting on the attire that proclaims for all to see that God is still working in this world through the ministers of His Gospel.