When in seminary we were taught that the cassock is a liturgical garment and therefore only worn during liturgy. I have not worn a cassock for a while now because it is not very comfortable to wear. I usually wear no less than four layers during liturgy so if I can shed one layer it helps especially during the summer.
I also feel that clergy dress can be a put off to people. I have a very close friend and she told me one time that it freaked her out to call me father. So I told her she did not have too. I believe that if I had not done that we would not be friends and although we have not been friends long it is a friendship I cherish. Sometimes the collar and all of the black stuff can cause someone to not talk to a priest. I try to be as approachable as possible. If you saw me last Saturday morning at about 1:30am on the fire ground in Dudley with all my fire gear on you would understand.
Am I any less a priest if I am not wearing a black shirt and a white collar? It is not that I object to wearing it and I do wear it when I feel it is necessary. It’s like the term father or even reverend. For example my official title is Very Reverend Protopresbyter… That can be a mouth full to people. I very often sign letter or email simple with a P+ More often then not people will call me Father P or just Peter. I do not see this as a sign of disrespect. I try to meet people where they are.
The Orthodox Church is a church steeped in tradition but I find it funny that the very people who harass me about tradition only hold to the traditions they choose. For example, it is tradition in the orthodox church when you approach a priest to put your hands in front of him whilst he blesses you. He will then place his right in in your hands and the custom is for the person to kiss his hand. Okay not done here… That’s okay not a big hand kisser myself.
The other tradition is how to speak to the priest. It amazes me that the very people who get all bent out of shape if I leave something out of liturgy are the very ones who are so disrespectful to me, not only as a priest but as a person. These are the same people that never have a kind word to say to me about anything and are very quick to point out when I make a mistake. So it is all part of the cross that we have to bear and I am cool with that.
Clergy today are very different then they were years ago. We are required to do so many more things today then clergy were years ago. We have to be so many different things to different people. I work had at evangelizing people and sometimes you have to get dirty. Sometimes it is easier to minister wearing street clothes then it is wearing a collar. Whatever I wear, were ever I am a priest. It does not matter if I am wearing a fire helmet, and apron, cassock, vestments, or a white shirt, shorts, and straw hat at the picnic. I am a priest and one who serves not just my church but all churches.
So now it is your turn, what should clergy wear?