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No matter how you dress it up...

Victoria Weinstein, a Unitarian Universalist minister [obviously outside of the bounds of evangelicalism] who goes by the handle PeaceBang, has launched a fashion blog to encourage the "defrumpification of the American clergy." And in a recent Boston Globe story, Weinstein says that even though fashion isn't the greatest concern for clergy, it still matters.

I read the article and I would like to put a spin on this.

Though Weinstein's advice is decent, especially to her target group of women ministers, her comments have implications. And I'm sure Weinstein's aim is not to cause any overt controversy, but it raises some interesting questions...one I've heard on more than one occasion.

"Anyone who is in a position of leadership has to consider what image they're projecting...they will not be willing to hear us in the same way if we look like we walked out of 1972."

Absolutely. But the underlying statement here is "there is an accepted way to dress and if you don't dress that way, than you are projecting the wrong image."

What is the litmus test? Should there be? To me, the only 'test' is context. Consider your context and dress appropriately. If you minister in an urban area with neo-hippies, you may need to dress like you stepped out of 1972.

And what version of 1972 does she mean? Frankly, the business casual look of the 80's & 90's were the polyester suits of the 70's. But I guess by frumpy, she is not talking about that version of the 70's.

"...the problem with frumpiness isn't so much aesthetic as it is a problem of looking as though you are not paying attention to the world and that you are not part of today's world."

Maybe if you are dressing like a white collar business person for a twenty-something crowd.

The word 'frumpy' gets thrown around with the more casual look young people take. And again, in those contexts, they actually are paying attention to the world they live in.

Isn't dress a non-essential? And further, isn't a mandate on what dress is appropriate for worship extra-biblical [outside of the need for modesty]?

I see dress just like I see worship style. If the Bible does not forbid it, we have freedom to choose the best expression of it in our context as we honor the people in that context.

There seems to be an element of elitism related to the idea of one way to dress for worship. And frankly, for those that elevate it as a matter of contention, to me, it masks a deeper problem...they think that God cares about our outer appearance and that that appearance can hinder our worship of Him.

My friends, that is not the Gospel.  God cares about our hearts not our habiliments...

[HT: Church Marketing Sucks]

Complexifying the Liturgy

Worshiptodo_1 As we plan weekly worship here at Fuller Seminary, the worship interns and I have been talking quite a bit lately about three persistent and related problems.

The first problem is theologically inspired boredom: we are growing weary of planning and leading the same twenty minutes of “opening exercises” every week. The dominant feature of our pre-sermon worship time is a significant chunk of music interspersed with words of welcome and perhaps a prayer or two. In the past months we’ve worked hard at intentionally selecting congregational songs that have cultural breadth, theological depth, and liturgical clarity. Still, the logistics of the service (including the architectural shape of our space) leave us with a default organizational ordo with which we are increasingly uncomfortable. It is an order that feels not blessedly simple but distressingly simplistic: songs (led by a group from the right hand side), followed by a sermon (preached by a professor from the left hand side).

The other problems we’re struggling with are thematic coherence and sacramental expectation.

Continue reading "Complexifying the Liturgy" »

Ash Wednesday

Ash_wednesday In some monastic communities, monks go up to receive the ashes barefoot.  Going barefoot is a joyous thing.  It is good to feel the floor or the earth under your feet.  It is good when the whole church is silent, filled with the hush of people walking without shoes.  One wonders why we wear such things as shoes anyway.  Prayer is so much more meaningful without them.  It would be good to take them off in church all the time.  But perhaps this might appear quixotic to those who have forgotten such elementary satisfactions.  Someone might catch cold at the mere thought of it.

-- Thomas Merton