Rank and uniform are a key part, for good and bad, of the sea cadet world.
For ill, there are some in the Corps for whom rank and uniform has become seductively obsessive.
Part of the role of the chaplain is to lovingly and pastorally expose such ideas. In 1 Samuel 16:7 we are told that while we look on the outside, ‘The Lord looks at the Heart.’ Uniform like anything else that is good can become an idol.
The Armed services even have saying for this : ‘All the gear and no idea…’
For Good, ranks and uniforms serve to delineate in a positive way and may be an outward expression of that which is good within.
As the note on a sports centre once visited said: ‘A Well dressed sportsman is not necessarily a good sportsman, but a good sportsman is always well dressed.’
In our aggressively informal world, uniforms have a key function at times (a good way into this is Andrew Atherstone’s excellent Grove Booklet examining Clergy Robes - Clergy Robes and Mission Priorities).
If we are going to wear uniform then it is important to do it well.
This is important both in the unit and perhaps even more so when visiting elsewhere.
Given that our uniform is now (with the exception of the small SCC indicator) practically indistinguishable from that of the Royal Navy Chaplaincy that does mean we have certain obligations to wearing it well and with dignity for the majority of the Navy will not distinguish between us and our Full Time Royal Naval counterparts.
One of the most significant functions of the Uniform from a Chaplaincy perspective to is develop the incarnational aspect of chaplaincy - to go where people are, wearing the clothes that they are wearing.
The first time I wore my Sea Cadet Uniform to my new unit the response was ‘Oy Padre, you’re one of us now…’.
Uniforms also bring some of the pastoral challenges we face - the current Rank and Role Review being undertaken by HQ has left a lot of officers concerned (rightly or wrongly it doesn’t matter) about picking the gold braid off their expensively purchased mess kit should they re-rank downwards...