Steadfast on Campus — Wearing the Collar on the Secular Campus?

collarThis last year I continued my usual routine of meeting once a week on campus with our students for lunch.  We meet in the student union which is a popular venue and usually difficult to find a place to sit during the lunch hour. I sit at table with students who attend our church and perhaps a few of their acquaintances. Over the course of the hour we’ll have anywhere from 15 to 20 students swing by.  Some of them stay the whole time. Others stop by to say ‘Hi’ and grab a quick bite to eat only to be off to their next class or work.  The talk is usually casual—anything from the weather & sports to politics & theology. We call it “Table Talk” because everyone else in confessional Lutheran circles is doing it.

It was my custom to remove my clerical collar and even change into a golf shirt before I walked over to the campus.  I thought, “The students don’t want to be seen with their pastor. Or, at least they don’t want their pastor to be looking like one on campus.”

Wrongo!

One day at Table Talk, while enjoying my pizza and yacking away, the students around the table began to circulate a napkin petition.  All the students signed it. The napkin passed unnoticed by me until one of them gave it to me to read.  It read, “Pastor, you should wear your collar to Table Talk.”

Slightly embarrassed, yet pleasantly surprised, I said, “No problem.” I was glad to do it. The collar designates the office I hold and who I am to them.

Now I go up to campus looking like, well, their campus pastor.

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