our moment has come

Susan Olson, who co-ordinates the Young Clergywomen’s Project that many of you have heard me speak of, is looking for volunteers to do a survey on clerical dress. Remember, the project is ecumenical, so it’s not as obvious as it seems.

But, she’s looking for a particular demographic, which I suspect we are well suited to respond to:

If you have lay people in your church that you can send this to (especially those computer literate laypeople over 50—that’s a demographic we’re short on!), please send them this link:

Clerical Dress Survey

So, off you go then. At the very least you should get a laugh out of what people need to think about in other denominations.

16 thoughts on “our moment has come”

  1. The scary thing was that half way through … I found I had inadvertently changed sides, and the answer to the last question – it brought back memories.

  2. And I tell you now that a lay person with absolutely no official status and therefore no official dress also needs to think about it….

  3. I meant to add that only one thing I ever ‘wore’ in any pulpit ever caused comment. That thing was a bump, caused by a baby. It caused outrage in some sections of the C of S that I led worship while expecting a child by the husband to whom I had been married for some time, and by whom I already had two children. No, I did not back down over this.

  4. Wow. Rosemary, I’m truly shocked! What a bizarre reason for outrage – I’m v glad to hear you didn’t back down!

  5. Alas I have discovered that I find no shoes acceptable if the clergy person has the rest of the full gear on, but I am uncomfortable with the idea of high heels, nail varnish or body piercings at the altar. Oh and I’m happy with long hair on either gender / or no gender. I fear I have incorporated too many of St Paul’s strictures and am currently problematizing my thing about high heels. I apologize to all clergy who I oppress with my high heel prejudice.

  6. My training rector once questioned the validity of my ordination when I pointed out I was ordained in heels higher than the ones he’d just banned on the server.

    I found that most of my answers were for the altar, and might have been different if it was for the pulpit only.

    I also found that I could happily say ‘wear all the bright toe-nail polish you like’ since no one would ever see it anyway.

  7. Kimberly, I’m sure you look splendid in heels. By the time we meet face to face again I will have thoroughly reconstructed my self.
    I really do need to get over my attachment to sensible shoes and birkenstocks. I do have rather lovely Churches though, but of course I never have to worry about the altar. Except once or twice when I was asked to read at Stanbrook Abbey…a contemplative Benedictine house where silence even of footfalls was anticipated. I had a rather squeaky pair of doc martins on one occasion but as all the nuns wear them under that habits they understood.

  8. It occurs to one that a Franciscan who felt diffident about sandals and/or bare feet would have a bit of a problem. I do know one tertiary bishop who never, ever wears closed shoes….

    If I have a prejudice it is one in favour of the clergy wearing beautiful and bright things as well as sombre ones for sad occasions. I have a clergy freind who has the most splendid rainbow shirt for jolly occasions… she wears in (e.g.) when twisting balloons.

  9. I’m pleased to hear it!! Given I’m invariably in habit and sandals when I preach or do any public leading of worship!!

  10. Birkenstocks at the altar . . . happy sigh. Sometimes I do miss the Pacific Northwest!

    Vicky . . . are you sure about your discomfort about piercings at the altar? I’ve stood at the altar a few times (with the current dispensation at St Mary’s of sub-deacon – usually a lay server – and deacon joining the celebrant at the altar) and haven’t seen you rushing from the church in dismay.

    I found the questions difficult to answer as I wanted a version that said more or less, vestments + anything else = fine with me. I read the queries as would you be happy with xxx street clothes as meaning NO vestments. But maybe I have skewed results by not fully understanding the question.

  11. Elizabeth, are you telling me you have piercings?!!! OMG (as the girls would write). This means I’m also going have to reconstruct that visual prejudice as well. I will, of course, be totally unable to concentrate now.

    It is an interesting question though, isn’t it? Because second wave feminism suggests that certain forms of female dress are about meeting patriarchal needs, it’s easy to fall into a simple acceptance that anything that has been used to denote female sexuality by men, high heels, for example, become a problem. Of course, this implies that women have no agency to choose what clothes they wear purely for themselves. Third wave feminism counters this and re-establishes women’s choice and agency. So what symbolic clothes are appropriate at the altar? One’s which don’t oppress because of a theoretical belief that denounces them as sexualized? Where does the Bible stand on this? These are your questions for today 🙂

  12. I can always count on you to raise the tone, Vicky.

    For what it’s worth: I find having to wear clothes designed by and for men all the time (horrid clerical shirts) has led to a certain amount of flouncy skirted, high heeled rebellion. Sadly, clothes don’t fit me well enough to really give in to to the temptation to go buy frivolous outfits, but the temptation is there in a way it never was before.

    Vestments should be gender-neutral (which means chasubles need to be designed in such a way that they are neither too droopy nor too shiny in the wrong places for women). I’m not sure that everything beneath them needs to be, though.

  13. Good grief – of course what is beneath does not need to be! Which of us want a neutral person in neutral dress as … well, really, as ANYTHING! I agree with Elizabeth – vestments and then any other clothes. Leave the tensions and the irrelevancies in place, because if there does happen to be a perfect answer, we sure as heck don’t know what it is…. so we might as well live with the tension.

  14. “which I suspect we are well suited to respond to”

    No pun intended, I’m sure… (-:

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