I Did It
Yesterday was Ash Wednesday, and I made a decision. Well, I suppose I made the decision before the service, but it was a decision I made anyway. I decided to go ahead and wear a clerical robe.
Part of my difficulty with wearing a robe is that I am already distanced from the congregation by my calling and by my commitment to itinerate, and I don't believe that a "distant" and "formal" pastor is as effective with the younger generation, especially not in the context where I serve (I've been more effective with them simply being "myself" - helping out with the soccer team, playing pick-up basketball, and visiting). Many others have already made up their mind about a clergy person before they've heard a word, much of that negative (like the conversation I was having with a young couple in the park that abruptly ended when I told them I was the new Methodist pastor) - I don't want to alienate people before they even give me a chance.
In addition to this, I'm not an icon. I don't want to be the focal point whatsoever; I'd rather have people see God than me. Sometimes the clothes can be a barrier and can serve to bring attention to the person, and I don't want to be a part of this.
The other part is that I'm simply uncomfortable in a robe. Partly because they are hot, partly because I'm afraid I'll trip over it, and partly because I feel like a kid on dress-up day in it (beyond the reasons I already gave).
However, those aside, I decided that our special Lenten services are perfect for the robe. They are attended by church members - pretty much the ones who have been in church all their lives. They have certain expectations, as well, and, well, it just seemed right to wear it. Not that it made me comfortable in doing so. But Ash Wednesday service being what it was, I soon pretty much forgot that I was wearing it.