Saturday, February 17, 2007

Dear Boston Globe Readers [updated 8 pm, 2/18]

Dear Boston Globe Sunday paper reader,

I'm so glad that curiosity about this weekend's article in the Globe about this blog
has brought you here, and welcome to Beauty Tips For Ministers!

Whether you're here because you're clergy or because you're a curious layperson, or because you're just bored and have nothing else to do, I'm glad you've stopped by.

As Globe readers now know, when I'm not blogging in the outrageous persona of PeaceBang, I'm the Rev. Victoria Weinstein of Norwell, Massachusetts.

In all seriousness, and as myself, I warmly invite you to consider a Unitarian Universalist congregation if you are seeking a spiritual home. We are a free faith tradition and gather in covenanted community to support one another in the search for truth and meaning. Whatever your religious background -- or if you have none at all -- you are welcome to join with us in the work of cultivating reverence, ministering to one another, engaging in the work of social justice and ethical commitment. We are a theologically diverse people and abide with one another in the spirit of love --
cherishing our doubts and differences and affirming the inherent worth and dignity of every person.
In the words of one of our spiritual forebears, "We need not think alike to love alike."

You can find out more about us at, where you will find a handy directory of congregations near you.

My own beloved community, the First Parish in Norwell, welcomes you to join with us on Sunday mornings at 10:00 AM for our worship services and Sunday School. We have a very vibrant congregational life in Norwell, with opportunities for religious education for all ages, service and outreach projects, and fellowship with a friendly, creative, caring group of people. You can learn more about us at, and I hope you will. (P.S. I will be guest preaching in Kingston this morning, so I'll see you next week in Norwell.)

Thank you to Globe reporter Michael Paulson for being such a wonderful and responsible journalist and for shepherding this anxious pastor through a story that, in the hands of a lesser writer, could have just been sensationalistic and embarrassing for me. A PeaceBang halo to you, Mr. Paulson.

[Oh my GOSH. I just now discovered the "interactive graphic" on p. 2 of the online version. What a riot!! It's like playing with a paper doll , and although I was very nervous when being recorded for the commentary, I don't think you can tell: ]

[After having listened to the commentary on the "interactive graphic" segment of the online story, I want to clarify that when I say that clergywomen need "more color," I mean not just color as in pink cheeks, but polish and definition of features regardless of skin color.]

To my readers who wrote to Michael with testimonials about the influence of this blog in your lives, bless your hearts. Your kindness and eloquence have deeply touched me. Even if you didn't make it into the article, Michael Paulson forwarded your e-mails to me and I have read them all. They are absolutely wonderful and inspiring.

Have a beautiful and blessed Sabbath.

[photo by my pal james estes, blogging as "peregrinato"]

An Impeccable Public Appearance

How many of us have appeared on the local cable show to talk about our ministry? PeaceBang sees lots of hands in the air.

Here, on YouTube, no less, is a wonderful example of how to look while giving a smasheroo articulate and gracious interview:

I know you're thinking, "Well, yes, of course she looks elegant and beautiful -- she's young and gorgeous! How hard could it be?"

This is true. I wouldn't argue with you. She is young and gorgeous. However, she is also a full- time pastor of a thriving congregation who serves on a handful of boards, travels frequently, and is the mother of a four year-old. She didn't get out of bed looking like this.*

In fact, I am guessing that she's wearing foundation, a bit of blush, some eye make-up, and she's spent time on her hair. She chose her outfit carefully, she considered colors and length of skirt and image (the funky necklace says to me, "Yes, I am the parish minister of an historic New England congregation, but I am neither staid nor stuffy, so hey, check us out!"). She's composed and polished, and it doesn't hurt that she has a lovely speaking voice and excellent posture. Everything about her visual look underscores and highlights the tremendous intelligence of what she is saying.

That's how to do it, kids!

A big PeaceBang halo to the Rev. Parisa Parsa! Rock on, dear colleague.

* PeaceBang knows this from firsthand experience, since we have roomed together for many years at General Assembly and beheld each other many times at our bed-headed worst.


Don't Give Your Scarf Top Billing

Happy Saturn's Day, powder pigeons!

May I speak to you about an interfaith workshop I attended yesterday?

It was a nice gathering of Christian clergy preparing for Lent. I looked around and thought, "Gadzooks, everyone! We're not even to Ash Wednesday yet! Why so drab and dreary?"
There was a preponderance of black and earthtones and sombre blues and greys swathed around pale, cosmetic-free faces. When I saw JM in a beautiful, rich teal cardigan, I was immediately drawn to her. Why, I even offered to preach for her this summer! I must have been vibrancy-starved and drab-addled indeed to do this, as I try very hard not to fill up summer Sundays with any plans but to be a happy worshiper myself.

One woman had gamely knotted a very shiny, bright pink Valentine's Day-themed scarf around her front. I inwardly hailed her effort to brighten up her outfit, but every time I glanced her way, what I saw was "SCARF!!!" and not her.

Sweet friends, scarves are great. They can snazz up an outfit, they can add some flair, and they can save you from the hell of trying to find a necklace and earrings that suit you and the occasion. On the gents, scarves can be natty and smart. But they are an accent. They are not a garment in and of themselves. Scarves should not obliterate your entire front and make their entrance before you do, stealing all the attention and upstaging you. YOU are the bringer of the good news. You are the one who engages the world in doing justice, loving mercy, and walking humbly with your God. Not your scarf. Don't give your scarf top billing. Your scarf is a supporting player.

If you're a woman and you choose to wear a scarf so bright that it borders on the garish, you must consider cosmetics. You must consider blush and lipstick and some mascara or your features will become entirely lost in the competition against the SCARF.

Try as I might, I cannot remember the first thing about the gal who was wearing the Valentine's Day scarf yesterday. All I recall is that blare of pink and red, and not the person behind it. And that's a shame.

Don't let your accessories cancel your face, dear ones. Everything that adorns your beauteous selves should enhance you, not erase you.
nice scarf, honey


Thursday, February 15, 2007

A PeaceBang Halo Goes To...

Rev. Kelly Murphy Mason
Originally uploaded by Peacebang.

I just found this photo of the lovely Rev.KMM of NYC, taken at a conference.

I think Kelly makes the Snazzy Clergy Babe list here. She's wearing a lovely feminine floral skirt, but she's not drowning in flowers and hearts and sunshine. She's got a bit of fashion-forward edge, which comes from her classic boots and opaque tights. She lives in New York City, and she gets it.

She's wearing a marvelous color for her red hair, and the scarf adds not only warmth, but a bit of drama to her sweater that tells me she's a creative person. She's wearing a little religious symbol around her neck; she's not letting it wear her.

She's hunkering down on the stairs for a photo, so there's no reason she couldn't hunker down with the youth group or a Sunday School class in this outfit, too. Or attend a meeting, make a hospital visit, write a sermon, pray, bake a cake, or go grocery shopping.

There's been a lot of talk among us lately about hunkerable clothing, but I think it's possible to do a lot of active things and still look nice. Unless you're cleaning out a garage or something, you should be able to participate in lots of ministerial activities in a decently put together outfit.

Think about it! Cripes, if Pa Ingalls could work in the field in a shirt and trousers and suspenders and if Ma could replace the straw ticking in the bedding wearing corsets and petticoats and long skirts, I think we can scramble around with the youth group in something a step up from jeans and tees.


T-Shirts And Red, White And Blue

Butterbeans, PeaceBang is very pleased to be able to recommend to you the Land's End catalog which is showing all kinds of lovely, well-made t-shirts that come in fun colors, are nicely cut and affordable! Now do yourself a favor and put all those stained and icky overworn tees in the rag pile. Go 'head. You'll feel better.

They have supima cotton t's from $16.50 and if PeaceBang's memory serves, Land's End makes t-shirts that don't fade the second you wash them, and they're not cut so big that you look like a line-backer with big hamhocks for arms.

Check out the ribbed tees on p. 24, which have a lovely shape to them, and a rather nice collar. Twelve bucks, my friends!

PeaceBang loves a good boatneck tee, so she was a bit disappointed to see that Land's End doesn't seem to know what a boatneck is. They show a scoop-neck tee in the catalog, and although it's cute and striped and has terrific 3/4 length sleeves, it doesn't have that French boatneck charm. So I would skip it; it's too informal for work.

PeaceBang feels that this spring is going to be all about very clean lines and a lot of crisp whites and blues, and even red, white and blue. Check out these fetching accessories from Target. I took the photo with my phone so the color is really lousy, but you get the idea. Cute bags with braid trim, and that cherry cotton scarf in the foreground just kills me. I bought one to wear in my hair during the summer. It would also be swell tied around a simple white or black bag:
Target accessories

The fact that PeaceBang is feeling very drawn to cheery red, white and blue accessories scares her quite a bit, because MotherBang used to dress little PeaceBang and SisterBang in red,white and blue ALL THE TIME when we were tiny lasses, complete with red yarn tied to the end of our pigtails. We were so cute. But because of MotherBang's devotion to All Things Navy, PeaceBang started wearing black when she was in college and never looked back. It is only within the very recent past that she could handle navy blue in her wardrobe at all, and apparently she is now also healed of her aversion to the combination of red, white and blue.
MotherBang will be so pleased. God Bless America.

Now, don't overdo it on these kicky little accessories or you'll look like Marlo Thomas in "That Girl."

Labels: ,

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

The Perils Of Too-Dark Hair

Originally uploaded by Peacebang.

Remember Emily Watson, the simply brilliant actress who made you cry so hard in Lars Von Trier's "Breaking the Waves" that you thought your eyeball would pop out?

(If you haven't seen it -- SEE IT!! For heaven's sake!! It's got at least THREE sermons in it!)

Here's Emily a few years ago, with kind of overly-cutesy bangs but otherwise just fetching and glowing and with her trademark mischievous smile. She's a delight.

But oh, regardez, mes amis.

Quelle dommage! Someone has taken a dark rinse to Emily's hair and not only destroyed her complexion in the process, but taken every bit of light from around her:


Lesson, pumpkins: none of us has a halo yet, so our hair should reflect light or we will look like zombie people. It doesn't help that Emily is grimacing in this photo or that she's wearing a truly horrible black satin gown and terrible liver-colored lipstick. It's the hair that's the problem. The updo isn't good, but the color is flat and far too dark for her. Let's hope she had it done this way for some new movie role in a tragic drama and not for real life. If it's for real life, she should fire her colorist right away and scamper off to grt help from someone who understands how to make a gal look good. That's going to be a tough color to chip into, though. Another lesson: if you want to go a lot darker, do it in increments.

Gents, this is for you, too, because don't think PeaceBang doesn't know how many of you are covering that grey with Miss Clairol. Which is fine, just make sure there's some dimension and variance in the color or you'll look like a Ken Doll with molded, plastic hair (Mitt Romney, are you listening?).


Tuesday, February 13, 2007

She Glued Rhinestones To Her Orthopedic Boot...

... bless her fabulous little heart!!

This from a fellow lover of shoes:

Hello PeaceBang,

Just wanted to tell you about my experience of the ministry of shoes. I like no, love shoes and they are always a topic of conversation with my parishioners on a Sunday morning. They comment on the height of the heel-high and the pointyness of the toes-very. When I broke my toe a week before my ordination, they all lamented as to what I would wear-I hot glued rhinestones to my orthopedic boot and they loved it. Just wanted you to know that I have embraced my shoeness and am not the least embarrassed by it, it just lets me know that my congregation loves me-shoes and all.

Thanks. I knew you'd understand.


Dear D,
Indeed, I do understand. When I broke both of my ankles at the same time in 2000, one of the things that aged me even worse than the pain was the footwear. I couldn't step into a cute shoe or a heel for six months. Come to think of it, I wasn't wearing heels back then. I was living in Maryland and fairly new in the ministry and still reeling from the fact that having a "Rev." before my name seemed to have totally cancelled my attractiveness quotient in the eyes of every man I met. I felt like a frump and I'm afraid I was very much dressing the part.

When I moved back to Massachusetts to be the minister at one of the prettiest churches I have ever seen (the interior of our sanctuary is mauve pink!! How flattering to a girl's complexion!!) , I got some mojo back. My new surroundings were so pritty, I wanted to be pritty! My friend Nathan took me shopping for clothes my second summer here and when he noodged me to buy some heels and I replied that I was too plump to totter around on them, he put his hand on his hip and said, "Honey, if I can wear them, you can wear them!" Nathan, you have to know, is well over 6" tall and is not a slim boy. I've never seen him in drag, but I just know that he's utterly fabulous. I bought a pair of
9 West pumps that day and have never looked back.

Thanks for writing, sugarpie. Take good care of those tootsies.

Kiss of peace,


Promoting Intergenerational Sartorial Understanding

Good morning, glorious ones!!

We are expecting a Nor'easter tomorrow here in the land of PeaceBang, so she wants to get out and about today and make some visits that the snow may prevent later in the week. First, though, some java and this inquiry from a West Coast reader:

"Dear Peacebang:
I am a ministry candidate and a big fan of your fashion blog. I have a question that I am sure you can answer. I do campus ministry with college students. We are talking about funky and casual west coast college kids,not preppy ones. I am middle aged and have a college age kid myself. When Igo on campus, or to a local coffee shop, to meet with college kids I am not sure what I should wear. I would feel out of place with this crowd of ratty jeans and second hand sweatshirts in my "minister clothes", but I don't want to be one of those middle age people who pretends they are 19 in order to look approachable. What do you advise when ministering to the very casual young adult community?
Faithfully yours, [Lovely and Earnest Candidate For the Unitarian Universalist Ministry]

Dear Lovely and Earnest Candidate for the Unitarian Universalist Ministry,

What a wonderful question. Most of us, even if we do not spend all of our ministry with younger folks, spend some of it with them (or should, if we don't!). It is my experience that we all agonize to some extent about how to look ministerially appropriate yet approachable to the youth or young adults. Sometimes we err on the side of "hipper than thou" and try to out-grunge the kids. This is a big mistake, and those clever fish ain't bitin'. They know that you're not an age peer, and all the ratty sherpa hats and concert t-shirts in the world can't change that.

This is not to say, however, that you shouldn't dress for your community. You should, but in an age-appropriate way. Don't try to look like them, but do consider what values they are expressing in their own clothing and weave some of those ideas into your own look.

On most college campuses where Unitarian Universalists have a campus ministry (and it ain't Bob Jones University, duckies), I am guessing that many students express creativity, global consciousness, a dose of non-conformist rebellion, and insouciant, youthful poverty in their outfits. While you can skip the non-conformist rebellion and insouciant, youthful poverty elements in your own clothing, Lovely and Earnest, see how you might incorporate creativity, individuality and global consciousness into your look.

For instance, where your backpacking-across-Asia students might walk around in ankle-length print cotton skirts purchased in Bali, you can keep an eye out for inexpensive accessories that communicate a similar vibrancy and adventuresome spirit.
Learn to peek into stores you've never peeked in before, like those hippie stores on campus. Therein you'll find loads of inexpensive options that zoom your look without requiring that you empty your closet and fill it with an entirely new wardrobe.

In fact, cupcakes, none of us should EVER feel that we have to acquire an entirely new wardrobe for a new position. If (and this is a big IF) your clothing choices are professionally appropriate, expressive of your sense of self and look good on you in the first place (remember, I said IF!), you can adjust to new positions with subtle jzujzing of your look, not a whole make-over.

So, Lovely and Earnest Campus Minister, a few examples to give you an idea: get a pair of huge silver Indian earrings and wear them with a fitted, nice denim jacket. Wear a pair of nice jeans tucked into knee-high fleece boots (I hear that UGGS are fantastically comfortable, but tres cher!), but top the jeans off with a classic merino turtleneck and big pendant (which should hit you at the top of your rib cage). Be a grown-up, but a grown-up who signals by what she wears that she's inspired by the youthful energy around her.

Keep your fabrics interesting, colorful, international, creative. Stay away from florals and pastels. Get your hair cut somewhere edgy. Remember: you're not trying to look like them, you're trying to express affiliation and admiration through your own appearance.

PeaceBang's Rule of Intergenerational Sartorial Understanding:

When ministering to another generation, dress to express admiration, not emulation.

Let's take it in another direction. Say you're a 20-something pastor and preparing to address the Ladies League, all of whose members are 50+ years older than you. To show admiration for their generation, dress up. Iron your blouse, boys and girls. Fellas, shave. Ladies, wear a slip. Wear pantyhose. Gents, consider wearing a tie. Gals, get out the pearls if you've got them. Everyone, shine your shoes. Don't flaunt your tattoos or your piercings: in this setting, they'll just be distracting, not evidence of your individuality.

You attend to these details not because these wise elders will judge or condemn you for not doing so, but to show your respect for the values of this generation, and to show your respect for these particular people.

So, Lovely and Earnest, thanks for writing and let us know how it goes. And remember as you build your professional wardrobe that you may not be a campus chaplain for the rest of your ministerial life, so lay in some pearls, too.

Kiss of peace! *smooch*


Monday, February 12, 2007

Scary Huge Eyelashes

scary huge eyelashes
Originally uploaded by Peacebang.
I knew it. I just knew it. I knew that all the recent obsession with big, feathery eyelashes would lead to this. Oh Lord, I knew it.

If I can trust my old eyes, I believe Miss Tyra Banks is wearing enormous false eyelashes on her upper AND lower lid. How can she even blink?

God's All-Stars, even if you are preaching to a stadium of 40,000 people and will be filmed on a Jumbotron, will you make sure not to overdo the lashes like this? Only Tammy Faye gets to do this look.


The Photographer Is Here!!

Right now, my dears, a photographer from the Boston Globe is taking photos of me blogging, and I'm trying not to have a nervous breakdown or to worry about my hair. I didn't have time to get a manicure and my nails are hee-deous, and of course we're getting lots of close-ups of them. *sigh*

I'm laughing because this is all so funny. How do you get interesting photos of something that happens almost entirely and exclusively on line, with people typing??


We took some photos of me blogging, then we took some photos of me standing in the doorway holding yellow roses. I bought the roses to have in the background of the typing-on-the-computer scene, but the photog. wanted me holding them. I felt like Miss America, so I hope they don't run those.

We went to the church and featured me on the front steps with some of the shoes we've discussed on here, and some of the products I've reviewed, plus hairbrushes and make-up brushes. The photographer wanted to take the photos inside the church, but for all that I'm perfectly willing to promote the idea that even ministers of historic congregations care about their 21st century image, there's no need to show me applying lipstick in the sanctuary (an idea I put the kibosh on).

Yesterday in church I was stopped twice by attentive and lovely women: one who tucked my tags back inside the neck of my shirt when I first got to church, and later by another who said, "I want to comb out your tassel" and who proceeded to do a bit of stole beautification before I went into the pulpit. I thought, "I get the distinct feeling that PeaceBang could only have been born within my ministry with this particular congregation."

Last year I got a fabulous red lipstick from someone as a Christmas gift; her signature color that I had admired for years. My Director of Religious Education wears a sports coat and a bow tie every single Sunday. There are about a dozen highly-regarded artists in the congregation, and a serious wide-spread patronage of all the arts. In this community, beauty is obviously a transcendent value. I think they birthed PeaceBang just as much as I personally did. Hmmmm. PeaceBang muses, chins on hand, squinting at her yellow roses (P.S. Thanks Mr. Photographer for trying to shoot me so that I wouldn't have three chins, but I'm not sure it can be done!).

Sunday, February 11, 2007

You're Not Just The Role

My lovely and beautiful people,

It has come to PeaceBang's attention that she might have to have a little Reverend Mother talk with some of you who are engaging in excessive "aw shucks-ery" regarding the important issue of clergy authority and presence.

Here's how "aw shucks-ery" goes. PeaceBang says something about sprucing up for an important liturgical event or professional appearance, and some humble and sweet person inevitably says something like, "Aw shucks, PeaceBang, it's not ME up there, I just represent the Office of the Clergy."

At first, PeaceBang nodded in hearty agreement with you. But then she began to think about it more critically and found herself making little squinty thoughtful eyes. Think about this, pussycats. Are you sure you really mean it? Do you mean to tell me that you're just a Generic Clergyperson and that really, it's not YOU up there presiding -- YOU in all your marvelous uniqueness? You're just, as the hip hop folk would say, "representin'?"

So does this mean that you could be replaced by just anyone who felt like representin'? Like, if you got sick on Sunday morning before church, I could go onto the street and ask the first person I saw if they would come on in and be the clergyperson, it would be no big deal?

Here's my imaginary conversation with this generic person on the street:

"Hey, we need a minister for church this morning, ya wanna do it?"

"Sure, what do I have to do?"

"Well, you have to exude God's love for the community, and before you come in, you have to get in the right frame of mind and heart so that you really believe in that love, because you're not allowed to fake it. You have to do some rituals that we'll teach you.
You have to come up with a meaningful message on some spiritual topic and speak on it for 15 minutes without making everyone fall asleep. You should also try to make it intelligent and coherent, and if you have the time, it should involve some research.
You have to pray, but you can't just read someone else's prayer -- you have to mean it. If you can't mean it, you can't say it.
You have to connect with people, and if someone seems to be suffering or upset, you should notice that, and remember it for later. You have to go to some meetings afterward and then maybe a social event in the afternoon where you should try to greet everyone by name."

"Wow. I have to think about this. The money's really good, right?"

My point is, you're not some Random Guy. You're you, a specific person. You're not just filling a role or representing The Office and then stepping aside and becoming invisible. Darling, it's you who was called to this work, not anyone else. When people see you, yes, they see the Office, but they see YOU. You and your face, you and your whole body, you and your clothing, you and your hair, you and your vestments, you and your shoes, you and your toenail polish, you and your piercings, you and the zit on your chin, you and the run in your stocking or the great new boots, you and your bifocals or your contact lenses, your weight gain or loss, your rosy glow or your wintery pallor, your bad perm or your smart new haircut. They see you. If you're lucky, they love you. They don't love an Office.

When they're in the hospital and you come walking through the door, you don't represent an Office, you are their pastor who cares about and knows them. When you preach a sermon, you're giving a spiritual teaching based on a relationship with them, not just representing an office. When you participate in a processional -- perhaps the most representational and symbolic sort of thing we do as clergy-- we represent a particular person who serves a particular tradition within a particular community. That's why the particularities of our appearance matter.

When God calls a minister, S/He does not say, "Hey, um, somebody do this, okay?" God clears his throat and gets your attention and says, "YOU. C'mere. I've got something I need you to do."
You didn't hide from the calling, baby, so don't start hiding now. And in the spirit of hip hop, let the people say, WORD. Let it shine.

uu minister chasuble dude Ethiopian priest