Friday, June 27, 2014

"Clergy Robes and Anonymous Notes in Church" by Jason Micheli

From Jason Micheli:

Clergy Robes and Anonymous Notes in Church
When I was a student at Princeton, I got the chance to hear a lecture delivered by Stanley Hauerwas, a theologian whose work I knew only from the snarky comments I heard whispered by certain professors as I waited on their tables during faculty lunches.

Hauerwas was a like a breath of fresh air: robustly Barthian, absolutely not a Calvinist, and he had a mouth dirtier than my own.

During the lecture, which was on discipleship, Hauerwas shot from the hip and offered what has continued to be a guiding maxim of the pastorate for me:

“Ministry is like being nibbled to death by ducks.
It’s just a nibble here and a nibble there but before you know it you’re missing a leg.”

I’m grateful for those auspicious words and have never forgotten them. I once again recalled them when this morning this little gem found its way to my desk:


In December I preached a sermon in which I used folding chairs to illustrate my point. In the first service, the cincture of my robe kept getting caught in the chairs so I took it off for the following services.

I wasn’t making a statement.
I wasn’t trying to ‘go contemporary.’
I wasn’t trying offend traditional sensibilities.
I wasn’t trying to do anything but avoid breaking my leg on the altar steps.

Not wearing my robe that Sunday elicited such bad behavior, in the form of anonymous notes left in my box, under my door, in the pew pads, and on the pulpit, as well as gossip being brought to me fourth-hand (‘so and so is concerned..’), that I decided not to encourage such behavior by putting it back on.

To date, in over four months, only 1 actual living, breathing human has approached me face-to-face to tell me how they feel about the robe. The ratio of anonymous complaint to face-to-face encounter is about 1/300.

Before proceeding, I probably don’t needto, but I will do so anyway and point out that 98% of my congregation are wonderfully sincere Christians who are supportive, encouraging and want nothing but to partner in furthering God’s mission in the world. I love working with those 98% and I think (fingers crossed) they appreciate me, warts and all.

Back to this week’s latest note.
I could point out that leaving an anonymous complaint in the offering plate- the plate that gets prayed over and dedicated to the Lord’s reconciling work in the world- suggests something far more disturbing than my lack of vestments.
I mean- would you ever stick a cranky post-it note on the communion bread?
That’s bible bad.
I could point out how..  continued

see posts linked below on 'clerical clothing,' especially

My Dress for Sale on EBay...Finally!

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