Vicars don’t need to say, “Hello, I’m the vicar.” Their dog collars make voiceless introduction: they are an emblem of office; an indication of vocation and service. They are woven into the Christian fabric of our public life, as commonplace as dog-walkers and chocolate-box village churches. So to read that vicars are being advised not to wear a dog collar in public because it makes them an easy target for Islamists is disheartening, to say the least.
The Mirror reports that “knifemen will target Western church for their next attack“, and about half-way down we read:
A vicar, who declined to be named, told Mirror Online they have been warned by church diocese officials not to wear their dog collars in public because it marks them out as a potential target. He claimed they have also been warned to avoid being in churches on their own.
We are not told which officials in which diocese have issued this warning, but it is advice which needs to be ignored. To heed such guidance is to surrender to fanatical Islamists; to conceal one’s Christian faith out of fear of the consequences; to hide one’s light under a bushel in order not to provoke some hot-headed Muslim extremist to combat.
Easy for someone to say who’s not in danger of being a target, you may say. But what have we become if we relinquish the vestments of our national faith out of fear of the adherents of another religion? What is ceded? Who is appeased? Where is the victor and who is the vanquished?
It is wise and helpful for security experts to issue ‘Counter Terrorism Advice for Churches’. But vicars don’t work 9.00-5.00: it’s a 24/7 job (maybe Mondays off, if you’re lucky). They are supposed to be identifiable when they are not in church because they are always at work and forever on duty (even when they’re not). By all means install CCTV and “be alert for attackers, who are likely to be armed with knives”, but, for God’s sake, don’t let the Islamic State force you to conceal the marks of your Christian faith. No, you must make every effort to preach truth, in season and out; you must symbolise the blessings of salvation when you can; you should earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints (Jude 1:3). Defend the truth vigorously. Walk by faith continuously. Guard the treasure. Be bold for Christ.
The diocese which advises otherwise has already surrendered.