Showing Up For Reproductive Rights: Halo Of Praise

Good God, these are important times to show up looking sharp, polished and ready to speak truth to power. Here is the Rev. Sarah Gibb Millspaugh speaking at a #StopTheBans rally in San Diego last Saturday, sponsored by people connected to the Women’s March. Rev. Sarah was one of about twelve speakers and she was one of two faith leaders.

Please click to enlarge the photos and we’ll see what works here.

My first impression is one of strength. Sarah’s architectural glasses make a strong statement: they are mature and stylish. Every one of us who wears specs should have a no-nonsense pair that we can bring out for occasions like this when our fun-wacky-I’m-a-colorful-personality cat eyes and sparkly purple don’t lend enough gravitas. With specs available now for less than $100 I am going to stick to my gubs* on this. It is too easy to be dismissed as a Crazy Cat Lady by our ideological enemies (and even plenty of friends who have immediate associations of cat eye glasses with archetypes of eccentric ladies). Don’t give anyone easy ways to discount your presence and message.

Sarah has smoothed her very curly hair back from her face (THANK YOU) and her passionate facial expressions, strong stance and emphatic gesticulation all undergird her spoken word.
USE YOUR WHOLE SELF in delivering your message!!! From your podium, from your wheelchair, from your seat behind a table or standing at a pulpit, never ever ever think that your work of preparation is complete when you print out the paper or upload your doc to your iPad. Imagine yourself delivering your statement. REHEARSE it. Bring your body into it. You are not just a talking head!

Sarah has naturally bold brows but many of us don’t, and I want you to notice how much they do to frame her face and convey her expressions. Fill in your brows! They’re so helpful in communicating your emotions to the back of the house.

Hands: Sarah is using hers, and she has a clean manicure. It matters. Make sure you get rid of the chipped polish or the Hello Kitty or Wonder Woman Band-Aid.

Now: attire. This is the simple, tailored, really great black suit I have urged all of you to make sure you have in . your closet ready to go for occasions like this. This is why: when legislators succeed in stripping women of their reproductive rights and we know exactly what kind of horrible consequences that will have, and we know that some of those consequences involve death, WE ARE AT A FUNERAL. We must communicate with our attire that we understand where these right wing machinations are leading (and have already led). This is not an occasion for floral skirts or cute dresses or (shudder) slogan Tshirts. This is a time of utmost formality and severity. Sarah has dark hair and so I love her choice of the royal blue clericals. Black would have gotten lost, and the rich blue looks beautiful andworks with her coloring. I often see clergy wearing colorful clerics that seem to be chosen strictly because that person likes that shade of Crayola, and their face is entirely washed out or upstaged by the hue. The color of your clericals should be strategic and work for the occasion, for your clerical status (don’t wear purple clericals in an ecumenical setting if you’re not a bishop), and with your hair and complexion.

Although I go back and forth about her wearing all of those buttons and badges, one thing I did like a lot was the way Sarah has arranged them in a manner that echoes military decorations, which I am sure wasn’t intentional but was immediately effective. I thought, “Oooh, she’s addressing the troops for battle!” I was ready to fight.

Now: image management. If someone takes a bunch of photos of you at a rally and you have the opportunity to choose one or two to share publicly or use on the website or whatnot, choose the strong images. This is the only one of the terrific batch Sarah’s husband took where she looks pulled back and tentative:

You manage your own public image. Scrutinize what goes out whenever possible and only approve the best!

I do not comment on content but I thought some of you might wonder what Sarah said. Here is the full text. We may all be called upon to craft statements like this in coming days. Be prepared.

*I knew if I said “stick to my guns,” some tiresome scold would tell me they were offended that I used militaristic imagery so I did an end run around you, Tiresome Scold! Are football references okay or would you like to further strip language of interesting metaphors?”

Good morning. I’m Rev. Sarah Gibb Millspaugh and I’m here as a minister, a woman, a mother, a feminist, and an advocate for justice.

Why am I up here? Because I represent a religious denomination that is unequivocally pro-woman, pro-transgender people, pro-sexuality education, pro-contraception and pro-choice. I am a Unitarian Universalist minister, and we have been advocating for safe, legal abortion since long before Roe vs. Wade.

Here’s something that may surprise you: most people of faith in this country are pro-choice. I’ll say that again. Most people of faith in this country are pro-choice. And you know something? We are pro-choice because our morality compels us so.

Mine starts here: Life is sacred. Your life is sacred. Adrian’s life is sacred. The lives of the children and families waiting to cross that border [point south] are sacred. The lives of the people in Iran and Venezuela, Israel/Palestine, and Yemen are sacred.

The lives of the person, or the couple, facing a difficult reproductive decision: their lives are sacred. And because their lives are sacred, we are called to do all we can to protect their life and their well-being. The lives of the born. The lives of the living. They matter profoundly! The lives of people who have a conscience, who are struggling with their conscience to figure out what to do with a pregnancy. They are sacred! We owe it to them to offer honest, scientifically-accurate information about the choices they can make. We owe it to them to offer excellent pre-natal care, paid family leave, and affordable child care should they choose to carry a pregnancy, and we owe it to them to offer safe, legal abortion services should they choose not to carry a pregnancy. We owe it to them to uphold their rights, their dignity, and their own responsibility to guide their lives.

Abortion is a moral choice because, as clergy of many faiths said together in a 2005 open letter, we best uphold the sanctity of human life by assuring that life is not created carelessly. “It is precisely because life and parenthood are so precious that no woman [person with a uterus] should be coerced to carry a pregnancy….”

And it’s about so much more than abortion. It’s ultimately about justice.

The reproductive justice I support “envisions the liberation of people of all genders, sexual orientations, abilities, gender identities, ages, classes, and cultural and racial identities.” Reproductive justice is rooted in the experience of women of color, who recognize that “liberation requires not only accurate information about sexuality and reproduction and control of personal reproductive decisions, but also living wages, safe and supported housing, high quality and comprehensive medical and reproductive health care, access to voting and the political process, affordable legal representation, fair immigration policies, paid parental leave, affordable childcare, and the absence of individual and institutional violence.” (Unitarian Universalist Association Statement of Conscience, 2015) That’s morality!

I want to lead you in a chant. I say, “What’s Really Moral?” You say, “Reproductive JUSTICE!”

What’s really moral?
Reproductive JUSTICE!
What’s really moral?
Reproductive JUSTICE!
What’s really moral?
Reproductive JUSTICE!

Rooted in my religious commitment to love my neighbor, work for justice, and care for those in need, I, and the many, many faith leaders who are with us, commit to fighting these harmful bans. May love and justice win!

A Halo of Praise and a deep thanks to my dear colleague, the Rev. Sarah Gibb Millspraugh for her work, her witness and her fabulosity.

These Totes Are Totes Appropriate For Ministry

MINISTERSES, there is absolutely no reason for you to be chugging along your day carrying a raggedy-ass tote bag. Save those stained, wrinkled, silly, juvenile (you know, farting unicorn decals or whatever) totes for the farmer’s market or the used book store. When you’re at work, have some dignity about your bag!

Here are two snappy revs I saw at General Assembly last year in Kansas City. The Rev. Dr. Kelly Murphy Mason and the Rev. Alison Miller, both of the metro NYC area, were rocking tailored, lovely totes and I asked if I could BTFM them and they said “sure!”

Please click on the images to enlarge.

Alison’s tote has a metallic interior, which is SNAZZ.

Really, nice totes are all over the place. Get one and use it and retire that beat-up ole thing with the faded tree goddess decal.

Frumpy Rainbow Lady Preacher

PeaceBang attended a worship service on the beach this past Sunday.
The weather was perfect, the congregation lovely, the setting perfect.
But then this lady minister was totally upstaged by bright-colored, Wacky Grandma accessories.

Click to enlarge the images

The “bones” of this outfit are fine. Ankle-length pants (no one needs their hem dragging in the sand). Swingy summer jacket. I don’t even mind the bare feet, because she had a nice pedicure and the sand was damp.

But the huge sunhat, the rainbow stole, the big turquoise earrings AND the turquoise readers? — let’s remember Coco Chanel’s dictum: load on all the accessories you want, but take two of them off before you walk out the door.
The hat and the big turquoise earrings would have been fine, and even nice. If a stole seems necessary, and I don’t think it is, keep it very simple. I get the desire to “advertise” that the congregation is LGBTQ welcoming — but I would suggest planting a rainbow flag in the sand and not on the minister’s person.

I’ve seen it done:

I liked the sermon very much. You can listen to it here (audio only). It’s nice to hear the ocean in the background. The sermon talked about the viral “daderina” video, the anguish in our nation right now, the disgrace and cruelty of separating families at the border, and the Father God many people grew up with and rejected. It was a good “visitors” sermon, which is what you want to give when you’re in a public space and have advertised to the entire town. But when those folks show up, the minister needs to communicate more dignity than this.

Sometimes when there are a lot of moving parts to a service and you’re leading it in an unaccustomed place, it’s easy to put together an outfit too fast and not really consider the image you’re projecting. I think this preacher looks friendly, warm and colorful … but so colorful as to verge on the silly and eccentric.

If I were she, AND I AM, BECAUSE THAT’S ME, I would wear a simple dress under the jacket, choose neutral color readers, keep the big hat and earrings, and rock on.

Happy But Still Professional Bags

A bright bag for the spring and summer can be happy and still professional:

Keep it tailored and structured:

Another nice idea is to look for bright trim on a neutral:

Don’t we all need a little pop of brightness now, darlings?

Wearing A Stole Over Street Clothes

Wuh-oh! I received an e-mail rant from a retired colleague who saw some photos on a Facebook page in conjunction with a conversation about wearing stoles over street clothes and begged me to, as she put it, “ride in on a white horse” and do something about what she considered outrageously inappropriate attire.

I heard the description of the photos and I agree: YIKES! However, I did not view the photos myself, and have asked my esteemed colleague to do the good, if often unappreciated, mentorly thing and contact the offending colleague herself.

But let me make some general observations and suggestions on the topic, ’cause that’s what we do here!

A stole is a liturgical garment. It should technically only be worn in liturgical settings.

HOWEVER, times and usage changes and so PeaceBang must address that. Now that PeaceBang has shifted into third person, you know she’s very serious.

Clergy these days have taken to flinging stoles over all manner of clothing and outerwear to signal to the public that they are religious leaders. They do this particularly in the context of social justice witness, and this has become so common that PeaceBang has to say, “Well, okay! This is a thing! So if it’s a thing, let’s do it right!”
Since we have no other authority to decide the matter, let us proceed.

What might we consider appropriate street clothes to wear with a stole?

You, wonderful minister or rabbi, may feel that throwing a stole over your protest message T-shirt is a fine and dandy way to appear in public. PeaceBang heartily disagrees.

Remember that while people are “reading” your stole and interpreting it to mean that you are some flavor of religious leader, they are also “reading” your Tshirt and making unconscious associations with it that affects their opinion of you: “I am a humble cotton garment worn in extremely informal settings. I have my origins in men’s underwear.” Why would you pair an important act of presence with attire that invokes extreme informality? Don’t allow your attire to undermine and contradict your message.

PeaceBang recommends that stoles be worn over actual clothing that professional adults wear. Interpret as you will.

Clergy who are in the habit of wearing stoles over street clothes should consider owning stoles of a couple different lengths.
The long stole properly belongs in church, where it will not flap around in the breeze or against jeans or casual pants. The chaplain length stole is a very nice option to have on hand. It’s neater and therefore more respectful.

Stoles are not cheerful little personal banners. They are ancient liturgical vestments that represent the yoke of ministry and the sanctity of the priestly office.

One need not don a mitre with a stole in non-liturgical settings, but one should most certainly not don a baseball cap. One or the other, gang. You may feel that your baseball cap and stole are a great combination of Serious Religious Person and Fun, Relatable Guy but PeaceBang feels that the combination signals, rather, Sloppy Minister Who Didn’t Feel Like Washing Their Hair Before the March, Who Has No Sense of The Gravity Of The Justice Issue. Just chillin’ in my baseball cap!

What are some better haberdashery options? Let’s hear them!

Stoles should never, ever, ever, ever be worn with shorts
. PeaceBang is LAYING DOWN THE LAW on this one. If you must disagree, please do it out of her earshot. Remember the minister we heard about who officiated a funeral in the summer wearing madras shorts? That still pierces my soul. No one can ever undo the hurt that that show of clueless disrespect caused to the family of the decease.

Stoles are not a fashion accessory. They should not be worn as scarves to brighten up or formalize a comfy outfit to make it more clergytastic. If you choose to wear a stole over street clothes, please create an outfit that takes the stole into consideration. Consider the neckline of blouse — will it lie nicely with a stole over it? And women, stoles and cleavage are not a good mix. This is not because clergy shouldn’t have breasts or be sexy but because revealing cleavage is an evening wear, glamorous kind of look. Featuring cleavage while doing the work of ministry isn’t a problem because you’re a curvy gal but a problem because it looks like you don’t know how to find clothes that fit appropriately. Festivals of Inappropriate Sharing are a result of poor fit. Take the time to find a blouse or top that fits well, and consider using fashion tape or brooches to assist with fit.

When wearing a stole over a jacket, consider the cut and fabric of the jacket; will it work with the stole? How does the color scheme all go together, head to toe? And speaking of toes, stoles should not reach yours. They should fall no lower than mid-calf. Chaplain length stoles should be around abdomen length, or the top of your thighs as you are walking or wheeling.

Cheers, dears.