My boss told me I needed to start wearing a clerical collar. I had been wondering about the future of my outreach outfit and took our conversation as a sign. I ordered three clergy shirts and hit the streets. The reaction has been fascinating. Overall, the collar seems to communicate that prayer is available. People living in tents by the freeway have asked me to pray against demonic activity in their camp. “Thank you for your time, Father. Thanks for being here!” is the most common response. The idea that the church would show up on the street seems to rattle everyone’s theological cage. “What about the role of laity in the church? What about the priesthood of all believers?” “Are you a real pastor?” “Thanks for showing up!”
People living on the street understand what the collar means. They understand that I’m not a case manager. I’m not a city worker tracking treatment outcomes. I’m not a cop. They can look out of their tent or up from the sidewalk and ask, “What church are you from?” The collar is an invitation to participate in the kingdom of God.
Monday night I prayed with four people. Alex wanted healing prayer for his back. “It feels better. Thanks for praying, Father!” Terrance grabbed my hand and yelled through a mouth full of booze, “Bless me, pastor!” Jerry and I prayed for healing, finances, and peace on the steps of the bookstore. Donnie told me to pray as I felt led.
Donnie is someone I have known for twenty years. I met him when he was a kid. He is in his thirties now and in rough shape. He sleeps in the park often with no shoes. Tonight is the first time he has seen me in the collar. He is sitting in a parking lot staring obsessively at a five-dollar bill. I offer greetings and salutations and he does the same. He looks at my collar and grins from ear to ear. “Very nice, very nice.” I ask him what he thinks of my new look. “I approve, I approve, very good!” Thank Donnie! “You are coming to Christ, who is the living cornerstone of God’s temple. He was rejected by people, but he was chosen by God for great honor ( 1 Peter 2:4, NLT).” — Michael Cox