Several people had a word with me this morning after hearing the news item on clergy and how wearing dog collars makes us a target for attack. An organisation called 'National Churchwatch' is recommending that clergy don't wear collars unless necessary to minimise the risk of being attacked. There is the serious point of 5 clergy murdered in the last 10 years, and the high level of attacks on clergy in certain areas (a prominent vicarage - often the only sizeable home in a neighbourhood - can be an easy target. I knew a vicar in Nottingham who'd been burgled 70 times in 9 years, and a curate in the same parish had bricks thrown through the window, narrowly missing their newborn child).
I guess I'm fortunate in having a vicarage that is just a normal house in a normal (ish) street, nowhere near the church, so it can function pretty much like a normal family home. We're also in a good neighbourhood, so there isn't the sense of siege that I know some clergy families experience. But there's something else here, which is about a culture of fear and whether to succumb to it - I don't want to be walking round wondering who's got it in for me, it builds a barrier between me and other people, and sets me against the community I'm trying to serve. I won't be wearing my dog collar any less, but that might be because I don't experience any sense of threat. Also, there are Christians in other countries who face a much higher level of danger than I do for their faith. For example in Sudan, Christians are denied food aid unless they convert to Islam, and then they are victims of a punitive law which forbids Muslims converting to other faiths. In Burma, Christian villages are routinely raided by the gun squads, and thousands of Christians have ended up in refugee camps along the Thai border.
Meanwhile, I think bishops lifestyles put them in the high risk category...
cartoon originally posted at Dave Walkers blog