It’s Gender Ambiguous Liturgy Dude!

We have welcomed a new brother, Chris Tessone, to the ministry today, and we wish him all good blessings and joy in his priesthood.

John Plummer alerted me to photos of the occasion on Flickr, and I hope he meant it when he said that all comments were welcome, because this is just too adorable not to share with all of you:

liturgy dude

I’m not sure what’s going on with the chasuble on the far left: is that a SHEEP applique on the front?
But look to the far right. It’s Gender Ambiguous Liturgy Dude! We’ve got the jeans and the sweat shirt, we’ve got the do’-rag and the long hair, we’ve got the sandals and the kind of tilted, super casual/endearingly goofy stance, we’ve got the STOLE to formalize it all. If Gender Ambiguous Liturgical Dude was an action figure (John, that’s not you, is it?), I would so want one for Christmas.

PeaceBang does not necessarily disapprove. She understands that Gender Ambiguous Liturgy Dude is the future of the church, and if anything, just wishes that s/he had worn a darker denim and been given a stole that was more in scale to his/her size. As it is, it looks more like a pair of suspenders than a liturgical vestment.

Did this service take place on the Feast Day of the Great Pumpkin? That is some FABULOUS orange!!

Now here’s something I’ve never seen,

home pageant
and forgive my ignorance, but when I saw it I immediately thought, “Hello, I’m Father Stuart … and my home pageant is held in Dayton, Ohio!”

Poor, Afflicted Nail Filing Sister

Lookie here, what Brent wrote today:

“You would be so proud… maybe. Today in church the woman behind me started filing her nails (actually quite loudly… it must have been a piece of sandpaper she was using) during the sermon. The man next to her cleared his throat and gave her a glance. Then I cleared my throat and looked back. Another woman did the same. And she kept doing it, although more loudly the more attention she got. Finally, I turned and politely whispered, “Could you please not do that during the sermon?” She shot daggers out of her eyes. After the service I mentioned it to someone sitting nearby, who said, “Oh, but what if she were a visitor?” “I think she was,” I replied.”Then she might not come back!” “I hope she does,” I said, “and has learned to behave herself by then.”Perhaps I shouldn’t have said something… but at the same time it’s so incredibly disrespectful to the preacher and everyone else who’s trying to worship. There are things one does in the privacy of one’s bathroom, and there are things we do in worship. That’s my story and I’m sticking with it.”

Brent, PeaceBang IS proud of you. She knows that it’s hard to set some boundaries with people who are so soul-sickened by our narcissistic culture that they actually think it’s acceptable to perform personal hygiene while in church.
She knows how hard it is to minister to someone with Tough Love, but she believes that, in fact, if we are to build strong churches, we will not build them upon foundations of Wild Permissiveness, but of gracious hospitality and love.

Yes, love is patient, love is kind. Love does not rejoice in wrong-doing. And love, I’m sure St. Paul would agree, also does not sit and tolerate the scritch-scritch-scritch of an emory board while the preacher is trying to give the Good Word and the people are trying to receive it.

That poor, poor lamb who felt her nails merited as much attention as the preacher. Shall we all pray for her?

Let us pray:

Dear Lord,
We have welcomed into our worshiping community today one who has not been blessed by the spirit of Sabbath reverence, and who is plagued with such anxiety about the state of her earthly dwelling place as to commit acts of personal hygiene during the giving of the sermon.

Lord, send a ministering angel to this afflicted woman, and heal her of the demons Vanity and Pride. Help those in her presence to keep a civil tongue and a calm demeanor as they take on the burden of chastisement and admonishment, which is never easy work, Lord.

“Thy rod and thy staff, they comfort me.”
Nail files, however, do not comfort us.
We rest in this confidence, O Sovereign and Uniting Spirit, as our hearts rest in Thee.

Amen and Amen.

Dress For the Highest Moments Of Your Calling

I used to admire this couple back when they were in the same district as I, and were always dressed to the nines.

Don't Mess With Texas

Remember when I said that beauty had regional implications? This is a perfect example: they’re serving a large congregation in Texas now and look how fabulous he is in his ten-gallon hat. I am certain that he wouldn’t be sporting that look if he was serving a historic New England church. Here’s a guy who gets it. Don’t mess with Texas. He didn’t arrive and insist on maintaining his East Coast look; he got to his new settlement and adapted to the culture. Let that be a lesson for all of us. It’s just plain smart, and it seems not only politic to me, but also affectionate, as in “your people shall be my people and your God my God.”

I hear a lot of you chickens out there pecking and fussing about how dressed up you should get doing the work of the LORD. Some of you cluck about not wanting to outdress your parishioners. Listen, chickens: Big Mother Hen here says quit worrying about that! Quit yer fussing already! Hardly any of us are in any danger of looking more fashionable than our parishioners in the first place and you know what else? It’s okay to dress a step up from your people. In fact, you should. Not in a flaunt-y, “I make so much money I’m wearing out my shoe leather in Lord & Taylor’s” kind of way, but in a “This work I’m doing is so fine, and the church is such a fine place to be, I’m going to dress in my finest.”

Look at Mark and Becky (they’ve got their nametags on clear as day, so it’s not like I’m outing them as attractive, fashionable people). They look like leaders. They look like people who got up in the morning and had some FUN getting dressed and becoming a well-matched clergy couple who are ready not only to comfort the afflicted and speak truth to power, but are ready to speak to a reporter or to show up on the evening news talking about, for instance, immigration issues.

If your daily wardrobe was chosen for the most scrubby aspect of your work — say, setting up for the church fair or scrambling around on the floor with the children in Sunday School, be honest with yourself. How often are you really setting up tables for meetings? How often are you really playing with puzzles on the floor? Not very often. On the other hand, how often are you walking through town unconsciously representing your office and your congregation to every one who sees and knows you? How often are you interacting with an office and program staff who needs to rely on your leadership and team-building? How often are you striding through the halls of power in order to testify on behalf of “the least of these” or appearing in the door of the hospital waiting room ready to help a family make one of the most harrowing decisions of their lives?

Dress for the highest moments of your calling, not for the scrubbiest.

You can always take that linen suit to the dry cleaner or have it mended if it gets dirty or torn. What you cannot do, however, is repair your image if you represent your congregation, your movement, the Church and your God in a sloppy and unpolished manner.

Ya hear, now?

Beauty is Relative… And Regional

Today I am wearing a white blouse with lovely detailing (set-in waist, thin, pretty lines of embroidered thread woven througought in slimming patterns), a lavender tulip skirt that flares at the knees, and 4″ cork sandals. Also beaded earrings.

In Massachusetts this is normal girlie get-up. It may be a bit froo-froo for clergy, but I had a hot lunch date today with my staff and I wanted to be cute for them. Thank you for asking: I did have a glass of champagne with my oysters. We have long, hard winters here in New England and when we finally get to sit outside in the harbor and look at the boats, we think it’s worth a 2-martini lunch. Which both my secretary and office manager did have.
Apple-tinis, bless their hearts.

Anyway, if I was living in Portland, Oregon or Berkeley, California, I would have more likely been wearing a denim skirt and a fleece pullover and some rubbery Keene sandals. And I would have been considered appropriately dressed. Because Outdoorsy Chic is very big on the Other Coast, and you can be clad in an outfit you bought entirely at Eastern Mountain Sports (EMS) and be assured you’ll fit into most gatherings.

(Or is it EMI? I feel like it’s EMI. Eastern Mountain … Indoors? No, that can’t be right. I’m sorry, I try not to associate any more than is absolutely necessary with businesses that encourage people to think that sleeping outdoors is a good idea).

Darling readers, you know how PeaceBang feels about camping gear passing for professional wear, even if she did succumb to a FMBT (Fleeting Moment of Bad Taste) and feature a lumberjack shirt on a recent post of casual-wear recommendations for men.

PeaceBang feels that ministry should come with as much flair and elegance as we can individually muster. If you live in Land of the Lumberjacks and snowshoe your way to pastoral calls, perhaps flannel plaid is just what you should be wearing. There is a regional element to all of this, of course.

However, do you remember in all those dear old “Little House on the Prairie” episodes when the pioneers would spend all week in their overalls and wide-brim hats, toiling in the fields (and Laura and Mary would bring them cool ginger water) and getting grimy in a kind of sexy, manly, Michael Landon-ish way? But then when they went to Meeting on Sunday they took their weekly bath and got all combed and shined up, and put on their stiff Sunday best (which in Laura’s case, meant bright blue hair ribbons on her pigtails)? And they looked kind of shiny and special, even if they weren’t terribly comfortable and certainly not fashionable?

I think we should be shiny and special in some secular equivalent of our Sunday best every day. We should communicate shiny Sunday specialness when we dress every day, to represent the blessing of the Sabbath spirit whenever we walk into a room or into the office.

I confess, PeaceBangers, that I attended a board meeting last night in a pair of striped casual cotton pants, black flat shoes, and a black Johnny-collar t-shirt. No earrings, even. For a board meeting, acceptable enough. But last night we added a surprise dinner for two of our departing members; one of whom was a brilliant and amazing chair of our board for the past two years. The way I feel about those two people, I should have been wearing a bugle-beaded gown and a tiara. They are that special. I should have dressed up more to honor them. If either of them read this, they would roar with laughter and give me big bear hugs.

But you know, with all the joy and pride I feel in my governing board, and how much I adore them and am grateful for them, I could have, you know, represented better.

I’ve gotten off topic, but now I’m all emotional. You can’t imagine how cute these people are. And the men were all wearing beautiful, crisp summer shirts in lovely colors — some with ties! — and every single one of them was ironed perfectly.
God, I’m going to cry.

Snazzy Conference Babes

I attended the United Church of Christ Massachusetts conference gathering as a singer (“the entertainment”) this weekend and noticed an awful lot of people in Jesus Casual, as opposed to Business Casual. Sweet people, I know. It’s a weekend thing, you’re schlepping around a college campus, you want to be comfortable. But I still don’t think that “comfortable” warrants a faded T-shirt with some old Gaia graphic on the front, paired with cotton pull-on pants and sandals with fungus toes.
I thought I didn’t need to say this anymore. I thought we all agreed by now that there’s never any reason to wear shirts with kittens, bunnies or fluffy little birds on them. I thought you were going to empty your drawers of those and give them to — strike that. Don’t even give them away. Rip them up for rags.

After our evening concert I struck up a conversation with a very fashionable young woman and complimented her on her outfit. She was wearing a terrific, fitted black suit, very cute pointy flats, a great emerald colored sleeveless shirt with a little front bow detail, and she had great curly hair and a GREAT bag. She looked like a Somebody, and she is. She is in a position of leadership at the Massachusetts Council of Churches, and as are most women in religious leadership, just thrilled to talk about clothes and make-up with another woman.

I loved her observation that when a woman wears, say, MASCARA in the pulpit in some communities, she’ll get hit with something like, “How come you’re trying to be all sexy in the pulpit and everything?”

I have never in my life heard anything like that but I don’t doubt it goes on all the time. What I tend to get, by contrast, are concerned questions like, “Don’t you feel well?” or “You look so tired, is everything okay?” when I leave off the mascara and the rest of it. I say, “I’m FINE. This is my NATURAL BEAUTY. Aren’t you glad I don’t inflict my NATURAL BEAUY on you every day?” And they nod understandingly and wait patiently while I apply some lip gloss.

Being polished can be sexy, but that’s not the goal. The goal is to be as beautiful and vibrant a presence as we can be. That might mean a fresh-scrubbed face and a big smile, it might mean smoky eyeliner and big hair and a big smile, but it never means a kitten or puppy sweatshirt and a big smile. That is where PeaceBang draws the line.

Next posting: What Should Clergy Wear To The Wedding Rehearsal and Reception?