Tuesday, October 14, 2008

The Clergy Collar: A Story

So about 15.5 months ago I became the pastor at Chatfield United Methodist Church. One of the questions I kept asking myself coming into the placement was this: What am I going to wear?

I am a jeans and t-shirt guy. Always have been from a child on (okay actually up until about 6th grade I hated jeans...I wanted to only wear sweatpants and well Zubaz when they were popular...but never jeans). Well most every pastor I met "dressed up" for work (usually that meant slacks and a dress shirt...sometimes including a tie), did that mean I had to also? I mean seriously there is one thing I cannot stand doing: coordinating my outfits. (1) I stink at it (2) It takes too much time and effort and well money. Enter my solution: The Clergy Shirt with Clergy Collar!

Buy 5 shirts make sure you have the tabs and you are ready to go. Roughly a $175 investment and problem is solved. Black goes with everything and well everyone will know I am a pastor then (which by the way when you are young like me in a town like me....trust me....people say "you are too young to be a pastor"). Well I started out wearing slacks and the clergy shirt everyday, but eventually I found that even to take more time than I liked. Jeans and a t-shirt were just easy and well that is who I am. I am practical and I like comfort!

Well now fast-forward to this past week. On Wednesday I was going to visit a member of the church who was in the hospital. Well in Rochester at St. Mary's, clergy can park in the ramp for free. We just have to write our name and the church on the parking ticket and turn it in as we exit. Well usually when I go to the hospital I dress up so I at least look like a pastor (although there have been times where an emergency visit arose and I just went in my usual t-shirt and jeans). I dress up because I don't want to be hassled as I leave the parking garage (even though I never have been hassled....funny how that sometimes plays into our minds). Well I didn't want to be hassled that day and so I decided to put on the clergy shirt and head up to Rochester. I pulled in and the garage was full....30 minute parking for me....and so I headed up to the hospital room. I got into the elevator and was accompanied by a hospital worker with a load of laundry and a lady holding a coffee cup. That lady and I got off on the same floor and headed in the same direction (I was focusing on trying to find where room 297 was....if it was left or if it was right). The lady spoke up: "You wouldn't happen to be going to room 310 are you?" I replied: "Nope. Room 297." (Yeah as in introvert I kind of just directly answer questions sometimes and don't open the conversation up) The lady replied: "Well if you have time could you stop by?" I replied: "Sure. Room 310. I have to visit a member of my church first but I will stop by before I leave." (as in introvert this is my nightmare.....strangers....needed help....looking for answers....good news is I have gotten better at getting over that initial fear I get inside).

Well I go visit the person I came to see and then I say I need to go and stop in and see someone who asked for me before my parking runs out and I headed off. Down the hall to room 310. I opened the door and there was the lady from the elevator and an older lady on the hospital bed. I said "Hi" and I introduced myself (Pastor Justin Halberma)....well to simplify the rest of the story. They were Roman Catholic and the younger lady (the daughter) had thought I was a priest (because of the collar). They were wonderful people and Fran (that was the mother's name) was at the Mayo because something irregular had shown up on here EKG and so they wanted her to go down to the Mayo (she is from Babbit, MN). At the time I visited they were waiting to hear if she needed to have a pacemaker put in. I let them know where the chaplain offices were if they wanted a priest (or needed one later since I was going up to the Cities for a meeting the next morning) but also gave them my information if they needed anything. I said a prayer with them and wished them well.

I went back the next day to see if everything turned out okay (on my way back from my meeting), and they had. They thanked me for my prayers and we had some further conversations and I wished them safe travels the next day and let them know that when they are back in Rochester they can feel free to call me at anytime.

It was a blessing....and reflecting (because that is what I do..I reflect in my head all the time) in the car on the way to my in-laws on Friday it hit me. I wore that collar just so I didn't have to deal with a hassle (a hassle that has never occured) and yet God was at work in that to connect Fran and her daughter to me so that God could speak to them in a moment of need. That is a powerful thing to realize, that God uses our ridiculous notions and flips them to reach out to someone in need.

(And for your information I am wearing jeans, a t-shirt, and a sweatshirt (Duke) today.....that is just who I am)

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