The traditional clerical collar appears to be going out of fashion in the Irish Presbyterian Church, with more and more clerics now conducting Sunday pulpit services simply wearing a suit and an ordinary collar and tie.
Even clerical robes are now rarely used at Sunday ‘Meeting House’ services across Ulster these days. However, in most church presbyteries, it is expected that a clerical collar should be worn by ministers at special services of ordination and installation, and, indeed, for funerals, and celebration of communion, and on Remembrance Day.
Because of the traditional pattern of worship in the Church of Ireland (Anglican tradition) and the Roman Catholic Church, the wearing of vestments is obligatory for clerics and priests conducting a service or a mass. An ordinary collar and tie and a lounge suit would be totally inappropriate in this setting. Notwithstanding opinions on the carb worn by clergy in Non-Conformist denominations like the Presbyterian Church, the most important credential for any preacher is the spiritual message conveyed in a sermon and how it impacts on those in the pew.
There is also the wearing of the Geneva Gown, also called a pulpit gown, pulpit robe, or preaching robe. This is an ecclesiastical garment customarily worn by ordained ministers in Christian churches that arose out of the Protestant Reformation
Irish Presbyterian general secretary the Rev Trevor Gribben admits the clerical collar is not worn as much these days by his ministerial colleagues. “At congregational level, many ministers are comfortable wearing a suit and ordinary collar and tie and, if the congregation agrees, there is no issue. Ministers do take a lead from congregations on wearing robes and clerical collars, but nothing is laid down from Church House. The spiritual message has to be the central theme of a service.”
A clerical collar, in Roman Catholicism, is known as a Roman collar. In that church, the collar is worn by all clerics: bishops, priests, and deacons. In global Reformed circles, pastors often don preaching tabs, projecting from a clerical collar. But in Irish Presbyterianism, a minister entering a pulpit wearing everyday collar and tie is no longer frowned upon in many congregations, even some who hold to conservative Reformed theology.