Clergy gathering rituals

January 21, 2010

I was speaking at a Methodist clergy gathering when a pastor told me
that at first the hotel had not been excited about hosting the group,
since its members weren’t going to run up any kind of bar bill. But then
the hotel manager noted that they had more than made that up in how
much was spent on dessert. The Methodists were welcome there anytime.

my own denomination, the United Church of Christ, the clergy do their
best not to leave those poor bartenders disappointed. It’s not that we
like to drink, of course. It’s an economic justice issue. And we order
dessert, too. Anything for the Lord.

Someone once said that when
the Baptists come to town, the bars are empty but the liquor stores do
very well. When the Episcopalians come to town, I suspect they’re both
happy. Though maybe not the dessert makers: Episcopal clergy seem to be
skinnier than the rest of us, and much better dressed in their clergy
shirts and clerical collars. Plus, black is slimming.

And what
about clergy fashion? When the UCC held a national gathering with the
Disciples of Christ, we were amazed at each other’s dress code. The
Disciples were dressed up as if for work—or, as they might see it, as if
for church. They clearly hadn’t gotten the UCC memo about what to wear
as a delegate to our General Synod convention: Birkenstock sandals with
socks, Guatemalan vests, rainbow pins on hats, tee shirts with
impassioned slogans, all of which should be covered with whimsical
badges that say things like, “Kiss me, I’m a Congregationalist.” The
only thing we could agree on was the denominational tote bag.

In the end, do any of these differences really matter? In Colossians
we are advised, “As God's chosen ones, holy and beloved, clothe
yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and
patience... Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds
everything together in perfect harmony.”

One year at a General
Synod limited only to our own tribe, I was shocked to ride down the
escalator with three elegantly dressed women. Their high-heeled shoes,
stockinged legs and beautifully cut skirts seemed so out of place in the
UCC sea of sneakers, sweatpants and Birkenstocks that I wondered if
they were missionaries from some other religion that only accepts tall
women with a sense of style.

The mystery was solved when they
appeared on the stage for worship and were introduced as members of the
first-ever General Synod Transgender Choir.

Finally, someone with the courage to challenge the dress code.


LindaMarie said...

LindaMarie said...

Wonderful! What about "business casual" as a compromise? Chinos even work with clergy shirts and collars.

sparkysoar said... That

sparkysoar said...

That is amazing! Yay for clerical acceptance! Hopefully this will become a trend in more denominations. I would love to see more religious/spiritual LGBT groups like that.

Jeff Lackie said...

Jeff Lackie said...

Thanks for telling the truth in love and laughter - you have made my morning!
and supported my move to tab collar and cut-off shorts (shoes optional)

John Dart said... Hey,

John Dart said...

Hey, Lillian, a great, funny story! Thanks to Steve Thorngate and contributors like yourself who like irony, some sassy anecdotes, and clever storytelling.

David Aslesen said...

David Aslesen said...

Along with her sons' preaching and composing, Susannah Wesley's sweet tooth has equally informed the Methodist movement in such a way that can only be measured by our waist size. I am grateful as ever for our transgendered colleagues and laity for bearing the standard.

Pastor Bob Cornwall said...

Pastor Bob Cornwall said...


Maybe we Disciples are just a bit more low-key with our dress. No vests, few pins and T shirts. My experience at General Assembly is that the clergy tend to dress casually but not so much of the t-shirts and pins. But the lay reps, they seem to like that kind of thing.

Just my observation.

mibi52 said... Marvelous,

mibi52 said...

Marvelous, Lillian - thank you for the smile today! We Episcopalians seem to fall into three camps: the Anglo-Catholic men dress in clerical collar and black suits (and will occasionally wear cassocks, to make a point), the evangelical men wear polo shirts and very large rustic crosses, and the women wear black with colorful, often ethnic, jackets. I've taken to wearing very bright and stylish shoes as my own personal fashion statement...not that anyone notices at councils and conventions! And trust me, not all Episcopalians are skinny.

Lynn said... On the other

Lynn said...

On the other hand, I am a UCC pastor and I do not own Birkenstocks or rainbow gear - I prefer to wear black on Sunday and even wear hose. How wonderful that we can be such a diverse group!

Mike McCurry said... I

Mike McCurry said...

I grew up UCC (youth delegate, General Synod '70) but now am an active lay Methodist and these posts remind me of our lectionary reading this past Sunday: 1 Corinthians 12. We are all part of the body and it might just take different liquid refreshment to keep those body parts moving. Here's to an ecumencial bar!
--Mike Mc

Lorne Warneke said... It

Lorne Warneke said...

It is strange that no one has made any comment about the transgender choir which surely was the important part of the message, not the actual dress code. The metaphor seems to be that we are all dressed differently to belong to a group but really we are all the same. And the fact we all dress to belong to a group regarding religion is silly since we focus on the clothing so to speak and not the true meaning of all of this.

I remember that General Synod

I remember that General Synod well. I sang in the Coalition Choir. And we had a blast with the City of Refuge (I think that is their name) Trangender choir. Such spirit!

I always enjoy seeing all the

I always enjoy seeing all the camp T-shirts at Synod. You have pointed out another way that we are all welcome whether we wear sandals and shorts or heels and nylons. Great article.

Still Get Goosebumps...

Lilllian, as a UCC pastor from West Virginia, and a former Nazarene, I am thrilled with the UCC ritual of gathering in the bar, after a Synod session, to do the gay about everyone elses fashion and the need for fashion police. Bring back the Transgendered Choir, we'll have a revival...Wesleyan style.


Ok, funny. But Episcopal congregations I've served have been addressing issues of alcoholism and substance abuse. Every joke conceals some truth is one way to think of humor. If so, my hope is that the 'truth' designated here isn't so much anymore.

California Episcopalian

Wherever three or four Episcopalians are gathered together, you will always find a Fifth.

Episcopal Update

The on site hotel of the national Episcopal convention of 2009 reportedly ran out of gin the first day of the convention.


Actually, if you check ALL of the facts, more $$ is spent on pornography during 'Christian' clergy conferences.

Dress code

Whew...the dress code for male pastors in my Conference has evolved to "no jackets and ties" for most of the time except weddings, funerals, and meetings with the Bishop. Good riddance to that piece of cloth tied around my neck. I attribute some of this transition to women in ministry who brought comfortable, loose fitting clothes with them.

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