When I mentioned to my former supervisor that I now wear my clerical collar most days at work as a campus minister, he rolled his eyes. This is, of course, because he had to practically force me to wear it when I worked with him in a parish church. And that's what I have been musing about this afternoon: why the difference?
In the parish church, in theory, most folks know that I'm a priest--they hired me, after all, and see me celebrate on Sundays. Being a youth minister means you can get away with more casualness but, in turn, casualness might also say something about the worship or theology of the place. Certainly it could say, "I don't value this place" or "I don't know enough to dress up" but for many folk, it said, "Bring yourself as you are" or "It's not as staid as all that." In other words, there are expectations of looking and acting a certain way in church or at the church building and looking different can help complicate those expectations in a good way.
Similarly, there are expectations about what campus ministers look like: Birkenstocks, crazy hair, tattoos, nerdy-chic glasses...wait a minute, that sounds familiar. My point is that folk assume a much more casual attitude and image on campuses and perhaps a way to complicate those expectations is to be a bit more formal. Thus, I wear my black and white most days. With Chucks. But that's a tangent.
I'm remembering a casual Eucharist that my house church held recently. We were on retreat in Hocking Hills and at dinner one evening, we read a little scripture, chatted about it a bit, said a brief (but theologically sound) eucharistic prayer, and shared the Meal with our meal. We prayed together and shared remembrances with one of our number who would be leaving for a new life in Boston at the end of the retreat. The Eucharist itself was simple and meaningful, I think, particularly as it was our own Last Supper as the group was currently made up. And, though we all knew that the bread and wine were just as sacred in that place as they were in the Big Church at home, there was a lot of giggling and conversation as they were passed. I'm not certain I would have wanted absolute silence either, but I wonder if I should have been a bit more formal myself? That is, if I as the celebrant had been less nervous and more confident, perhaps noting somehow the casualness of the evening contrasted with the reverence of the Meal, I wonder if it might have been a bit smoother?
The point being, some formality is needed and desired in a situation of extreme casualness just as some casualness is in a formal situation. Like Chucks with a tuxedo. It's a question of what your desired effect is--for me, right now, I want to show folks something new that they hadn't thought of. That worship can be more spontaneous or that it can be more reverential; that church should be fun, or that God is present on a secular campus.