|The clergy robe is similar to the robes worn|
at graduation, symbolizing an academic status.
The most obvious difference for me would be the black robe worn with a stole of the appropriate liturgical color for the church season. The robe represents the ministerial office and it does set me apart as different. The idea is to suppress the individual personality and see rather the clergy person who speaks on God's behalf during worship. Just as we've explored the nature of God's distinction from ourselves, we are reminded of the holy with the robe.
It hopefully lets the worshiper not be distracted by what the pastor is wearing on a particular Sunday.
The stole that I wear is a sign of my ordination. As an elder (the name of my clergy order), I wear the stole hanging down evenly on either side of my neck. It is a reminder of the yoke of the office. I've heard stories of some bishops popping the stole onto the newly ordained clergy person to signify the weight of the order.
In our congregation, Don's stole is hung sideways across the body. This is because he is an ordained deacon in our denomination. Deacons are also full clergy but tend to specialize in ministry such as Christian Education. They do not itinerate and do not preside over the sacraments.
As I mentioned, the stole is a sign of ordination and is not worn by licensed local pastors or commissioned elders or deacons (who are provisional clergy working toward ordination).
This setting apart of clergy is not meant to be hierarchical in nature but rather a display of servant leadership. How do we set our lives apart as Christians during Lent that displays our own devotion to God?
Photo by the US Department of Education via Flickr.com, used by permission with the Creative Commons license.