Just Another Graduate Working Two Jobs?

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This is the season for new graduates to get ready for new jobs. Among the recent graduates is commentator Meredith Gudger Raines, who has just finished at Drew Theological Seminary. She is about to take the pulpit at two churches near Morgantown, W.Va.: Community United Methodist Church and Fairview United Methodist Church.


'Tis the season for new graduates to get ready for new jobs. Among those recent graduates, commentator Meredith Gudger Raines, who's just finished at Drew Theological Seminary.


I was in school long enough to learn that there are some things you just can't learn in school. After three years of seminary, I'm on my way to my first church and I'm realizing that there is a gaping hole in my education. I've taken classes in death and dying, church and politics, filling out membership records.

But there's one thing no one taught me. For my first day as a pastor, I have no idea what to wear. The other day, I had a significant fraction of my wardrobe sprawled out on our bed when my husband came in. He's going to be a pastor two and we've already bought him $250 worth of slacks and sport coats. It took us 45 minutes and he's got a wardrobe from now til Advent.

But my collection of Eddie Bauer summer dresses and Ann Taylor loft separates looks shabby, immature, mismatched and definitely unpastoral. It took me half an hour to create a single outfit that was neither too revealing or conservative. Too stuffy or immature. Too dressy or casual.

Honey, my husband said, I'm sorry. I had no idea it was this difficult to get dressed.

I found a blog the other day where a woman pastor started a discussion with her female colleagues. What do you where to church? Is going sleeveless sinful or saintly? Sandals, yes or no? And the kicker, has your congregation ever commented on your wardrobe? But no one wrote, why are we wasting our time thinking about what to wear? Clothes aren't important. Let's talk about something that matters.

These pastors know that what they put on in the morning affects how people see them and the church. What we wear underneath our robes and collars and stoles matters. Our clothes cover us up, but they also make us vulnerable. We put them against our skin. They touch our body. And the perception of women of the cloth is that they aren't supposed to have bodies, curvy hips and round breasts and smooth shoulders and shiny hair. These are things of the temptress. Not the person proclaiming the word of God.

Except that we proclaim the word of God made flesh. And what better than my bare shoulders to remind people of that? Maybe becoming conscious of a woman's body in worship would make people aware of their own bodies, their own desires or illnesses or failures or limitations or limitless possibilities. Or maybe they'd become aware of the body that we assign to God, the body of the Father.

If I show a little skin in worship, maybe it would teach that God, like her children, has many bodies.

But if someone pulls me aside one Sunday to ask about my clothing choice, I know I'll feel a little undressed. Whatever I choose to wear on my first Sunday or the next Sunday or the Sunday after that, I guess I'll always feel just a little bit naked.

BLOCK: Meredith Gudger Raines is about to take the pulpit at two churches near Morgantown, West Virgina, Community United Methodist Church and Fairview United Methodist Church.

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