I was on a post-funeral visit last week and had really helpful conversation about the state of the church in England. During the discussion the subject of dog collars came up, because I wasn’t wearing one and don’t wear one except for funeral services where the family requests it.
My reasons for not wearing one up to now have related largely to fashion. Dog collars became fashionable at the end of the 19th century and, as my wife says, I look like a pratt in a collar, a pea on a stick. Collars also create an unhelpful status distinction between clergy and other church members. I am not ontologically superior to the unordained so why should I dress differently? Either everyone wears a dig collar as members of the priesthood of all believers or no-one wears a collar as we are all sinners under grace. A badge helps identify me to outsiders just as well as a dog collar. For evangelism, I can’t be all things to all people for the sake of the gospel if I wear a collar, as it creates deference in many people and guards are kept up.
When I said at the visit that I don’t wear a dog collar, the reply was “you’re quite right because when people see a priest or vicar in the street, the first thing which comes into their mind is “I don’t think I can trust him, he’s probably a paedophile.””
If the dog collar has come to symbolise immorality it is time to get rid of it as part of a necessary rebranding of the clergy.