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Collared after retirement?

12 December 2014

Write, if you have any answers to the questions listed at the end of this section, or would like to add to the answers below.


Why do retired clergy still wear their clerical collars?

There is a certain ambiguity about the term "retired clergy". Vicars retire from their parishes and archdeacons from their diocesan responsibilities - if they live long enough. But all those who are ordained as priests (or deacons or bishops) remain so for ever - at least in this world and barring mishap.

The purpose of a clerical collar is not to outrank other members of the laity (a priest remains a member of the laos, the people of God). Rather, it is a mark of being called to serve God, the Church, and the world in a particular way. It proclaims to those who do not know you, and perhaps also assures those who do, that you are there for them, as a priest.

Retired clergy will make their own decisions about when it is appropriate to wear their clerical collar, and this will vary from those who never do to those suspected of wearing one to bed.

(Prebendary) Christopher Tookey
Wells, Somerset

When I was serving my title in a suburban parish in the late 1960s, our rural dean came from the Anglo-Catholic tradition. Although our paths crossed fairly frequently, I had only ever seen him wearing a cassock. That is until one day I met him in the main street, and he was in a suit and overcoat, and no cassock. I must have shown some surprise, as I shyly mentioned that this was the first time I had seen him without his cassock on. "It's my day off," was his comment, as he invited me to join him for a cup of tea at the local bowling alley.

Sadly, I could not take this further, as I had an appointment; but it would have been an interesting conversation, because we irreverent curates used to assume that he probably slept in his clerical collar. What was abundantly clear was that he was never ashamed of being seen for what he was: a priest in the Church.

That is my role today as a retired priest. It is five years since I resigned my last living and joined the church family where I now live, but, like many of my fellow retired priests, I could be active every Sunday and more. Priesthood is my lifelong vocation, and that does not disappear with retirement. To fulfil that vocation when I am, as it were, "on duty", I wear a clerical collar and robes that make me instantly recognisable both inside and outside the church. The rest of the time, the collar stays in the drawer.

Now that I am freed from the responsibilities of actually running a parish, I am free to enjoy my priestly functions in the ministry of word and sacrament, but I can say "no" and sit in mufti in the congregation of our local church, with my wife.

(Canon) Gilbert Spencer (Bishop's  Officer for Retired Clergy,  Ashford archdeaconry)
Ashford, Kent

A valuable feature in the Psalter in Common Worship are optional short prayers which develop themes from the Psalms relating them to our Christian life. From where - or from whom - are these prayer texts derived?  T. H. J. P.

If a man were to be ordained priest without having first been ordained deacon, or consecrated bishop without first having been ordained priest, is that ordination deemed to be valid and in accord with the Catholic faith and order of the Church of England? G. S.

What animals should be included in the nativity scene? Do they need to be animals that were kept in first-century Palestine? P. M.

What should be done if unforeseen circumstances mean that no priest arrives for a Sunday eucharist? G. A.

Address for answers and more questions: Out of the Question, Church Times, 3rd floor, Invicta House, London EC1Y 0TG.

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Tue 16 Aug @ 08:59
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