Thursday, August 9, 2007

Wearing Black

In the days since I've been back from vacation, a lot of things have come up. Employee issues, some troubling parishioner crises, parish website problems, newsletter staffing change and, oh yeah, liturgy planning for the Fall.

But what was buzzing around my head yesterday was something so mundane that I haven't thought about it in years. It was a scorcher of a day, and there I was wearing black. I don't always wear a clerical collar, in fact, quite often I'll show up at the office in jeans. But yesterday, I was all in black – not even light colored pants. Not sure why, but there I was. And somebody at the nursing home said, "Isn't is awfully hot dressed like that?"

With all the truly important issues weighing down on the world, I spent the rest of the afternoon wondering about just how much hotter black made me feel.

Actually, not much.

You know, of course, that black absorbs heat, so in theory, I should have been boiling. That's especially true because I spent a good deal of time outside, not in my wonderfully air conditioned office. But it didn't get to me, even though my neck expanded in the heat making the plastic collar I wear all the tighter (yes, those collars are plastic! Once they used to be starched cotton, but who wants to go through all the work of starching?).

You might ask yourself, why would a person wear a uniform so uncomfortable. The answer? Well, it's my uniform. Most of the time I don't even notice it – it's just clothes to me. And there is a tremendous advantage – I don't have to think about what to wear in the morning. For a lazy person like me, that's a huge advantage: I just toss it on and go.

The heat factor isn't that big a deal. When it's that hot, it's just plain hot no matter what you have on. Besides, the material is light and airy.

The biggest DISadvantage to black clerical clothing is that people see me and think: "Professional Christian." They think I'll behave better because I'm wearing an obvious symbol of religiosity. As if the only reason to behave is because now I'm on record. I often wonder if a lot of Christians feel that it's okay to be jerks because they aren't wearing any outward sign of their faith – or if they would feel more constrained to be good if they had a uniform. Idle thoughts, I know. The important motivation for Christians to behave lovingly isn't because it will look good but because the heart moves them to such behavior.

I'll probably wear black today, too, despite another scorching forecast. Maybe it's just a habit.