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From the Editor

When I was a very small child growing up in a very Presbyterian home, once each year the Moderator would come to visit to congregation.

I remember it being something akin to a visit from Santa Claus. He (and it was always a “he”) didn’t bring presents, but he wore a particularly distinctive outfit that made a huge impact on us kids.

The Moderator wore antiquated court dress: a frock coat with a lace jabot on the coat, a shirt with ruffles on the sleeves and preaching bands, breeches, white stockings, and shiny black patent leather shoes with large silver buckles. 

It was a wondrous sight to behold and the memories came back while working on this “television” issue of Journey and pondering the kind of visual image ministers present to the world today.

While there are still some who continue to wear clerical attire – be it a clerical collar, crosses on the shirt collar or a large cross worn on a chain around the neck – the practice has virtually died out in Protestant circles.

It elicits the question, how do ordained ministers and church workers make their presence visible in everyday life, particularly in contemporary culture which, while secularised, is particularly sensitive to visual imagery.

For all its faults, the clichéd religious dress was a sign, and the wearer was instantly recognised as a minister of the church and all that that meant.

Critics claimed lifestyle rather than garb should communicate faith and contended that religious dress created an undesirable barrier between ministers and laity with whom they wished to communicate.

It has been an interesting move as Protestant clergy have become less or non-accepting of any distinctive clerical dress while having no difficulty accepting it for other vocations: fire officers, police officers, nurses, and countless other professions.

This is not about vestments (what ministers wear when leading the faithful in worship and sacrament) it is about the church becoming increasingly invisible in a world where most everything else is reduced to visual eye-bytes. 

Historically, distinct vocations and callings have often been distinguished by particular clothing and uniforms.

Imagine what our society would be like if police officers never wore a uniform to differentiate themselves from the rest of society.

It may be worth considering again how those set apart to undertake particular ministries on behalf of the church might maintain their community visibility in a very visually oriented world.