What, oh what does the discerning pastor wear to the church pool party?
NOT, as one wise reader has determined, a bathing suit.
Darling dears, we all know that bodies are beautiful. We all know that God loves our bodies as they are, and wants us to take care of them and be good stewards of them. In the best of all possible worlds, we could just strip down to our bikinis in front of our congregants and just be regarded as another healthy body that God hath fearfully and wonderfully made.
However, in case you haven't noticed, we don't live in the best of all possible worlds. We live, in fact, in a clergy generation that must be incredibly sensitive to boundary issues. Therefore, walking around scantily clad for any
reason is not advisable for men and women of the cloth.
PeaceBang got herself into quite a little mess around this issue when she was cast as Miss Hannigan in a recent production of "Annie" and found herself arguing with her director about one of her first act costumes. Much against her will, even though the show was on a stage 30 minutes away from her town, PeaceBang did appear in a very flimsy outfit, including thigh-high stockings and a garter belt. She did have the benefit of a robe to cover herself, but I'm afraid that cleavage was very much in evidence, as was leg. Her only consolation was that the lights were very low in the scene, and that she was playing a hugely comic role. Still, if she didn't have a fantastic congregation full of mature, understanding people who themselves adore the musical theatre and fully support her in playing singing and dancing alcoholic child abusers, she might have caused a bit of a scandal. She is seriously grateful that her people who attended the show were right proud of her, and made sure to say so. If any of their estimation of her was lowered by that outfit, PeaceBang has to accept those consequences.
Phew. You can tell that PeaceBang still has some residual anxiety about that one, can't you? Next time she does a show she will definitely put a costume clause in her contract.
ANYway, my modest cupcakes, while men may be able to appear in swimming trunks and still maintain a modicum of dignity wet and half-nekkid, PeaceBang doesn't recommend it for ladies or
gentlemen. It's not just about dignity, but about sexuality, I'm afraid, and about boundaries. If you're splashing around in the pool, how can you have that nice conversation with that shy person who's been waiting for just the right time to sidle up to you and let you know that he really appreciated your sermon on depression, and that he has seen a doctor, and that he is on medication and he thanks you for tackling such a difficult subject from the pulpit?
How are you going to keep that kid from the youth group or that new member who has a crush on you from fixating on your bosom, your pecs, or your belly button? Do you really want to invite that kind of fantasy? Wouldn't it be more appropriate and less fraught to stay poolside in a charming floppy hat and toss the Frisbee back when it goes out of bounds?
I think the pastor's role at a pool party is to stay dry and smiley, to enjoy the frolicking of her people, and to sip non-alcoholic beverages and chuckle at Bill's imitation of a porpoise, or to applaud Timmy's belly flop from the diving board. If you've been invited to vacation with parishioners or to use their pool -- or if you're in a bathing suit for a water aerobics class, that's different. Wear your one piece tank with impunity and enjoy the water.
If you should be wearing a highly unflattering bathing ensemble at a public beach and happen to run into a parishioner while you're innocently floating on the waves, don't fret. You're entitled to get your bod out there in the sunshine,too, and if you are seen by one of your flock, smile and make the best of it. Just think: you've provided them with a mental image that may get them through their next scary speaking engagement!
Age is an important factor here, too. You may think, "Heck, I'm so old no one's going to get swoony at the sight of my worn out old bod." Maybe that's true. Maybe not. However, if you don't mind congregants worrying about the moles on your back (are they pre-cancerous? Shouldn't he have those checked out?), noticing just how much weight you've gained (gosh, I never noticed how big her thighs are! You just can't tell under her robe!), or finding the sunken chest of their formerly young and virile pastor a little bit sad, by all means, do parade around in the all-and-all. Just know that you can never get that privacy back once you've given it away.