Reverend at Work! How Wearing a Collar got Colleagues Talking
Reverend Robert Stone wears a clerical collar for work. Nothing unusual about that for a curate you might think. But Christian Workplace Group member Robert wears his while working as a procurement officer at Chelmsford City Council. We spoke to him to find out why.
“In June this year I was ordained into the Church of England as a self-supporting curate. That means I support myself through full-time work at the Council while also working as a curate at St Peter’s, Bocking.”
Why did you seek ordination?
“I have been a reader (lay preacher) for 23 years. But lay ministry was changing and my vicar was very clear that I should offer for ordained ministry. With my wife’s encouragement I decided to step out in faith and see if the door would open. As I did I had a real sense of wanting to be able to bring people a blessing, of helping people to faith and baptism.”
How have people reacted at work?
“I have been really encouraged and supported. My manager is very happy to be working with a clergyman and encourages me to wear my clerical collar. He and his wife were among a number of non-Christian colleagues who attended my ordination.
I also approached the Council’s Chief Executive for permission to wear my collar at work. As an elder at a local free church he felt strongly that I should, and hoped it might lead to some interesting conversations.
The team I work with have been fantastic. A few were surprised the first day I wore my collar but have quickly accepted it, asking me why I’m not wearing it on the days I choose a tie. One or two have even asked me to take their funerals when needed. I’m now known as “Our Vicar”!
What impact has your collar had?
“People have begun to be more open with their questions about faith. One of my first conversations was with a Muslim colleague who was having trouble finding a place to say her set prayers during the day. I had long wished for a space for Christians to meet and so this prompted me to ask our management team to set aside a room as a prayer space for people of all faiths.”
What would you say to anyone wondering about becoming a curate in secular work?
“Pray, and ask someone you know will be honest with you. The selection process is very probing and training part-time takes a huge commitment from the individual and their family. Rest assured, if God is calling you then He will not rest until you are in His will. If Saint Paul could continue work as a tent-maker and transform the Middle East by spreading the Gospel, then why not a seamstress in Sidcup, an accountant in Aintree, or even a council officer in Chelmsford?”
If you’re a CWG member with a story to inspire others, please get in touch with us so we can share your testimony.