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Hoosier Musings on the Road to Emmaus

Monday, July 07, 2003

Donning the uniform

One of the minor ongoing questions many of us CPE'ers seem to be considering is the issue of wearing clericals on our rounds. Some folks have been apparently told that wearing a collar is expected, almost mandatory. My supervisor has left it entirely optional, although she did encourage us to give it a try at some point, if we are comfortable with that-- just to get a feel for what sort of difference it makes (or not) in our pastoral interactions.

A couple of people in my group have been wearing clerical shirts-- one woman regularly-- but I don't think I'm there yet. it says ordination to me, and feels inauthentic-- that's not who I am at this point. I may give it a shot for a few days, before the summer's over, just for the experience; we'll see.

Actually, we also have these long lab coats that we have the option of wearing, that say "Chaplain" over the breast pocket, and I have been using them. I started because of the comfort factor: long sleeves in the air conditioning, and big pockets for carting stuff around. But I'm discovering that, while it makes no difference to patients, it seems to make a marked difference with the hospital staff. I've had more pastoral encounters with nurses, unit clerks, security guards, etc. since I started wearing it. Bruce says he thinks it's the same sort of dynamic that one sees in the military, or on sports teams: I'm in uniform, part of the team, someone "on the inside" they can confide in. Whatever works.

OK, time to start the next verbatim.


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