Tuesday, 26 July 2011

The Primping and Preening of Priests

Just when I thought that the world could get no more crazy, a priest-friend of mine told me of the review of her personal appearance on the website Beauty Tips for Ministers - whose strap-line is: Because you are in the public eye, and God knows you need to look good

I am not kidding. 

The priest concerned is a very attractive and stylish woman, theology doctorate under her arm, publications to her name and many radio appearances to claim credit for. She is also one of the nicest people in the world and yet despite being a good deal younger even than me (yes, I am rather young), laboured hard to teach me New Testament Greek when I was at theological college. It seems though, that the trivialities of one's achievements and personal qualities pale into insignificance when placed against the needs of:
Don’t fight the collar.
Try not to wear it at all until you’ve come to terms with it.
This isn’t to say that Rev. Helen looks uncomfortable in her collar — she doesn’t. She looks very comfortable, very priestly and very approachable. I just think that she’s being upstaged by her wildly dramatic jacket (which I love and totally want to steal) and I appreciate that her photo has given me a chance to reflect on far more troubling examples of “I chose this outfit ‘cuz I really want to offset the bummer collar situation.”
Let’s see what you think.
Cheers, darlings.

Style first, substance last? I will let you be the judge.

The author of the site, one Rev. Victoria Weinstein, also known as PeaceBang (no, really) is, I am sure a wonderful and delightful person. But I am wondering what this is all about? I confess, I am fighting hard not to launch into my normal Vernacular Invective-with-Rictus-Grin and state in no uncertain terms why this may well be the most preposterous thing I have ever seen in my life, ever. I am trying hard, dear reader - really really hard.

But I will resist. I shall approach this from another direction. The thing with public ministry, priesthood or any other accredited ministry is that the 'office-holder' is second to the office. The idea of priest wearing black, or ministers wearing white albs, or surplices, or whatever - is to make the person invisible and the ministry visible. PeaceBang in her interesting efforts seem to want to reverse that in what I consider an unhelpful way. The minute ministry becomes about the minister ... 

... too late. 

Anyway - for your delectation, a moment of my own primping. Enjoy. I need to go away, find a darkened room and take a brandy to calm my frayed nerves. 


  1. Like the Biretta. We used to nick the priest's ones when Altar boys in our RC Church and pretend we were pirates. Off course, got into trouble, but it was fun while it lasted.

    As for the subject of the post, great shame that they feel the need to do this stuff.

  2. Oh David, you are sooooo beautifull!
    I really can't find the words to express my admiration for the biretta, and as for the teeth.
    If this is what happens when you primp and preen I think you should go to Whitton with a hazard warning.

  3. Rev Dr "Peacebang" is a Unitarian - slightly different dress code, and other rules. LIke it or not, and I frequently resent it myself, people will judge us (ministers, other professionals, especially women) by our appearance and it seems like a good idea to me to be intentional about the extent to which we blend in and look professional, and the extent to which we "express ourselves" through clothing choices, all else being equal, and without getting too serious about it.

    Did your friend ask the site for tips or was a picture of her sourced from somewhere else? One of my EX friends suggested sic-ing Trinny and Susannah onto me. I had to explain they probably wouldn't show the resulting bloodbath on national television.

  4. Just to clarify (if anyone is interested!), the photo in question was taken for feature in an article in The New Yorker magazine (April 26th 2010) on the position of women clergy in the C of E. By coincidence I was in New York and found myself involved in a 3 hr photoshoot. I had a clerical shirt with me, and a jumper...I got the jacket in Macy's the day before the shoot. I certainly didn't ask the website for advice and was amazed to find the photo as the topic of debate! The article in question is well worth a look at, never mind the photo! cheers all!

  5. It was once suggested to me that, despite my MBA, years of experience and glowing track record, I would never be 'taken seriously' if I wasn't wearing tights. Fine, if they are so busy watching my legs for signs of inefficiency I can probably pull some stunt that a bloke couldn't get away with.

    Do they tell men how many buttons they should have on the cuffs of their jackets before they can be 'taken seriously'?




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