Saturday, July 01, 2006

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?


Anonymous Clyde Grubbs said...

People worried about not dressing up fancier than their congregants!


wasn't it our CPE task to experience ourselves as ministers.....

1:55 PM  
Blogger Aola said...

they are gorgeous. What kind of fabric is his suit?

3:21 PM  
Anonymous Judy said...

Okay, Peacebang my friend, answer me this: what should I wear to church in two weeks when my hubby is preaching and I will be reading stories to the wee ones in the nursery? Last time I did this, it was emergency fill-in (oh the joys of being part of a ministry team and not having to preach every week!) and I was wearing a suit with a shortish, straight skirt, hose, and heels. Not the best attire for getting up off the floor repeatedly to wipe a nose, change a diaper, etc. (Getting down was easier; gravity kinda takes care of that.)

This time with forewarning, I'm considering my somewhat stylish jeans with a little spandex in 'em, a short-sleeved blouse, and sandals or flats. After all, I'm still the minister and I'll be making small talk with the congregation at coffee hour.

What do you think? Perhaps it's not the highest moment of my calling, but those little kids sure are cute!

3:30 PM  
Blogger PeaceBang said...

Judy, lambikins, while I would certainly not want you to endure the agonies of baby time in a short skirt, let's not go so far as the jeans on the Sabbath. In fact, let's never wear jeans to church on Sunday, no matter what we are doing. We are still the minister, and we are ministering in the church on the Sabbath.

Sister PeaceBang sees you in a sundress with flat sandals and a cotton cardigan, which you can take off when with the chillun' and keep on for visiting at coffee hour. Nothing too strappy -- nothing too low-cut, but pretty.
Another option would be to wear a flowy cotton skirt with your sandals and a nice t-shirt with a belt and nice beads.

SisterBang is an elementary art school teacher who's students are perpetually enchanted by her beauty, her pretty clothes and her swingy earrings and twinkly necklaces. Plus, she smells like vanilla. They WORSHIP her. Let youself be lovely enough that when the parents see you at coffee hour, your outfit won't broadcast, "I was doing time in the mines today."

Have fun with the munchkins! Don't wear white!

3:42 PM  
Blogger PeaceBang said...

oops: "who's" should be "whose"

3:43 PM  
Anonymous jinnis said...

One of our most excellent and always put-together colleagues put it simply:

You can only add to their impression of you. You can never take an impression away.

He shared this thought with me when we were interns at the same church, and I have kept it in mind ever since.

Dressing a step up is great - it says, "my work with you is so important to me, I will go the extra mile." I observe this in high school teachers, too. The ones whose level of dress indicates respect for the students often receive more respect in general.

Mark and Becky do have that great combination that says they are leaders and they have fun. I always observe their "look."

And a note on dressing for flexibility - I could be with the children on any given day. My priority is that what I wear is washable, followed closely by the knowledge of a good dry cleaner.

8:48 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Is it acceptable for a man to wear a hat indoors when it looks good? There's still a gender divide on that custom, and as he's from Texas, he probably knows that hats off is proper etiquette, as exemplified by Bum Phillips, the former coach of the Houston Oilers, who wouldn't wear his cowhand hat in the Astrodome because there was a roof over his head. And the minister isn't wearing a ten-gallon hat--once blocked, it's five at most.

3:34 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm a visual learner, so I'd appreciate photos of what you are advocating. You know, like the glamour Dos and Don'ts with the big black bar across people's faces to protect the guilty.

8:21 PM  

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