Clergy Dress

The question came up over the weekend about clergy dress. What should clergy wear when at church functions? At our recent church festival I choose to wear comfortable clothes as I was going to be working and it was a little warm and comfort always wins out for me.

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?


  1. In my mind when your work is done your life is your own.What you choose to wear is your business.Friends of ours at the picnic said we we're lucky to have such a down to earth priest,they envied us..lnda

  2. Does it matter?

    I think you know enough about my background and opinion to have figured out where I stand: it's not about what's on the outside that counts. And that is especially true of clergy, in my opinion.

    I've encountered enough clergy folk who wear their collar like it's some sort of device that makes them think that they are worthy of worship. And I've encounter others who are worthy of the term "Shepherd." And the vast majority of these are easy to pick out even if you don't know them, collar notwithstanding.

    You are definitely one of those, mon ami.

  3. If the clerical attire makes people uncomfortable I consider their discomfort more of an issue that needs addressing than the dress itself. Do they feel judged or frightened? If so, why?

    I'm of the opinion that a priest is a priest always. Unless he is doing work that will get him dirty he should dress as who he is. His life is no less dedicated to Christ than is a nun or a monk.

  4. I agree with Joseph Flavius.

    I often wonder why a priest would not want to wear his riassa, etc. After all being a priest is "who" he is, called by God, all the time. Okay, so maybe in his house I'd cut him a break, but that's about it.

  5. Priest should wear whatever their Bishop tells them too. 🙂

    For me an essential part of my conversion to Orthodoxy was processing all the changes to my cultural expectations.

    I don't really think of myself as a convert, but as an immigrant. I think there's some deep truths to be gained by that sort of thinking.

    I don't do so far as to say "Father Bless" at the beginning of each blog comment (but it's an interesting notion). However, it seems iconoclastic to ask the question, "does removing the robes make you less of a priest?"

    Of course it does. The "uniform" is part of what it means to be a priest. Any other position endangers the abstraction of the priesthood.

    Clearly there is no convertitis evidenced in this post.

  6. When not performing a church service, a priest should have the option of wearing his priestly garment or comfortable clothing.
    Some priests prefer to wear their priestly garment whenever they are with two or more people. On the other hand, some priests prefer to wear more comfortable clothing.
    Cosequently, priests should wear whatever makes them most comfortable. It is not a priest's clothing that provides him with respect and love from his parishioners, but rather the love and inspiration that comes from his heart.

  7. in my personal point of view, this is very great to meet and kiss the hand of the priest.

    However, your thoughts is very interesting Father, so down to earth, as linda said.

  8. I have never known a Priest as down to earth and in tune with what is going on than you. Although I have not known you very long, I listen to you five days a week, and read your blogs. I enjoy what you do, and how you do it. I say there was nothing wrong with what you wore at the Festival – people should just relax. A police officer is a police officer even without his uniform on, and a priest is a priest without his uniform on too. The job doesn't end because the uniform comes off, and neither do a persons beliefs.

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