When former Harvard President Lawrence Summers appeared at the Harvard Divinity School Convocation several years ago, he sat on the stage slumped way down in his chair with his legs sprawled apart. He looked like a disgruntled frat boy, but the fact that he was wearing academic regalia made him look like a particularly ill-mannered doofus.

I knew he was not long for his position, and I was right. His body language told me everything I needed to know about his inability to work respectfully and well with others, and to understand the concept of Occasion.

The way we sit is important, brothers and sisters. When you are in the pulpit or on the dais or at any public gathering, concern yourself not only with your attire but with your comportment.

There should be no slumping, and there should certainly not be any sprawling of legs or any other body parts.

In the pulpit, there should be no crossing of legs. Crossing of the ankles is fine. Crossing of the self is also fine.

Ministers should not fling themselves about. Unaware extravagance of movements indicates lack of boundaries and distracts greatly from one’s oratorical presence. I love labrador retrievers with all my heart, my dears. Just not in public religious leadership, no matter what Paul may have said in that part about “in Christ there is no east or west, or cat or dog.”

5 Replies to “Comportment”

  1. Thanks, Jan. If we can’t hang out here, then in the sweet by-and-by, dear Lord, where we can dish with the angels.

  2. Oh, dear. You’re too, too right, PeaceBang.

    I’ve always maintained good posture and demure ankle-crossing in the pulpit, but was chagrined to realize that I’ve been leaving myself open to other criticism.

    A dear, elderly parishioner recently told me how distracting it is when a lock of my hair falls over my eyes while I’m preaching. She then intimated (in a loving and nurturing way) that it’s a teeny bit annoying that I swipe that lock of hair behind my ear every 3 minutes.

    I was even more crestfallen when her friend (a UU but not, thank God, in my congregation) crabbily intoned from across the retirement-home-dining-hall table: “It is a youthful gesture.”

    Color me embarrassed. I’m 34, and have now woken up to the cold, hard truth: the vanity that keeps my hair loose on Sunday mornings renders me young and immature in the eyes of my elderly beholders.

    *sigh*…. There’s so much to keep track of, darn it.

  3. I agree with you, again. I look at how women sit all asprawl and think, “grow up, sit up and put those knees together!”

    PB, you are the best. We all think so.

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