On Wearing a Clerical Shirt


I’ve just had to go out and purchase a clerical shirt to visually demonstrate I’m a minister for this Saturday’s Providence Gay Pride parade. This is our first time at this parade as the First Unitarian Church and I want there to be no doubt the church’s minister is part of the deal…

And, monkey mind that I am, this set me to thinking a little about these things, titles, costumes, all that.

In my Zen life while I’m conscious of both the responsibilities and the very provisionalness of the roshi title that had been bestowed upon me a few years ago, I find that I only use the title for press releases. My old Zen teacher says there is a place for holding up the archetype, but he also suggests if one needs titles and robes to pull it off, well, then maybe there’s still some work to do…

Actually, of course, there’s still some work to do. As our tradition says, even the Buddha is still practicing. But, that’s not my teacher’s point, nor the subject for my reflection.

I know lots of people with various clerical titles and how some feel a need always to introduce themselves as “Reverend Billy Bob” and how it strikes my early twenty-first century egalitarian sensibilities as a tad on the silly side.

On the other hand I know when people call me Reverend or Sensei or Roshi, mostly they’re trying to respect the office.
I still tell ‘em to call me James, well, except in court or in the dokusan room…
And I wear a Geneva gown and a stole or academic hood most every Sunday and a rakusu or kesa and a koromo at pretty much all Zen events, but particularly sesshin…

So, clearly, in my mind, there is a time and a place.

Like the rest of life, ’tis a dance.

Sometimes we lead.

Sometimes we follow.

Whatever, probably never a good idea to get a sense of being special.

If we keep that in mind, then, what the heck, maybe I’ll pull out the brocade robe…

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  • Harry

    It is a very nice post Mr. Jamesford . Only a lucky Christian can achieve the opportunity of wearing a clerical shirt. The way you share your experience impress me a lot. I love to read the experiences of people who have religious thinking.


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