Dog collars go with danger, says safety advice group

By staff writers
October 7, 2007

Clergy who usually wear dog collars in public are being advised by a safety group to take them off when they are on their own, in order to reduce the risk of being attacked. But others believe security consciousness should not undermine the character of Christian service.

The group concerned, National Churchwatch, which provides personal safety and security advice for UK churches and churchworkers, claims that clergy identifiable as such are attacked more often than professions such as GPs and probation officers.

The organisation's spokesperson Nick Tolson told BBC Radio 4's Sunday programme this morning (7 October 2007) that all clergy should consider the advice, including well-known figures such as the Archbishop of Canterbury.

Mr Tolson declared: "When they are on their own, and when they are off duty - for example when they are doing their shopping in Tesco on their own - there is no need for them to wear their dog collars.

He continued: "All that does is to attract people who see the dog collars, and if they are motivated towards violence, it puts them [clergy] in a very difficult situation."

National Churchwatch also says that most police forces do not specifically record crime against places of worship, and that they ought to do so. Attacks on synagogues, mosques and churches have increased in recent years.

Churchwatch says that crime against churches continues to be a problem, and there is "plenty we can do to help reduce it" through security arrangements.

However, other Christians are concerned that a pre-occuppation with safety should not undermine the self-giving and risk-taking nature of ministry itself.

"Taking sensible precautions is one thing", a priest who wished to remain anonymous told Ekklesia. "But hiding your identity, permanently locking your church, and abandoning your calling to face vulnerability for the sake of other people and the Gospel is not what being a clergyperson is about, in my view."

She added: "Churchwatch no doubt has some sensible things to say, but those of us involved in pastoral ministry are not stupid. Common sense not anxiety is what is needed."

Anglicans,Catholics, Methodist and others have clergy who wear dog collars. Bit many Free Churches, including most Baptists, do not.

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