Thursday, June 14, 2007

Life with your shirt untucked

First of all, no that picture is not me...As I write this I am at the University of Puget Sound attending the Pacific Northwest Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church. There is lots of business stuff going on this week. Lots of procedural motions. Lots of discussion on “Robert's Rules of Order”. Lots of speeches lots of stuff. As I have stated on this blog before, and for those of you who know me, Annual Conference is one of my least favorite things. I am not a parliamentarian, nor am I a big arguer, and sitting in chairs for way long periods of time just ain’t my thing. I do love seeing friends from congregations that I have served in the past and also colleagues that i love dearly though.
In this last year, I was informed that some members of my congregation, didn’t like the the way i dressed, and that one of our worship services had become “too casual”. At first I laughed about it and my comment to my Staff Parish Relations Committee was “if the fact that my shirt isn’t tucked( Click here for a fashon lesson ) in is our biggest problem, then things are going pretty well, but on the same note if my shirt not being tucked in is our biggest problem? Things are pretty screwed up.” I explained, that for me dressing like a typical 30 something person in Vancouver Washington dresses, is a way of being welcoming. I have been in positions where people felt that they didn’t have the “right clothes” to attend church I’ve seen people made to feel as though they don’t belong due to the style of there dress or the make of their jacket. I’ve seen people who barely had food to eat go to good will and spend money on dresses and jackets so that they wouod feel welcomed at church. That hurts my heart. Secondly, If i am going to be genuine with who I am, and if I am going to truly be a minister of this Gospel, then I am going to be who I am. That means not dressing like a 60 year old man. I have volumes I could right about this topic but I’ll save that for another blog. Anyway over the course of the year as I met with friends who serve in ministry, I would discuss this event with them and we would laugh for a minute... and then be upset for a minute... then we would move on to a new topic.
I tell you all that, to tell you this - No less than 4 times in the first 4 hours of conference I had someone come to me and say. “you opened my eyes to something” or “you know what you were saying about the untucked shirt...” One told me of a young man who stood up in the congregation she serves asking for a prayer request and noticing that he dressed differently then everyone else in the service, because he was younger by several years than almost anyone else in the room. Another told me of walking through a mall and for the first time really paying attention to people who dressed differently than he did. One came and said. “you opened my eyes to something, and last week I wore something different to our worship service ...”
I felt kinda proud to tell you the truth. It’s important to me that we, within the church, realize that being a disciple of Jesus isn’t defined by the clothes we wear, or a prescribed set of behaviors, but by a transformation that brews in our hearts. Furthermore, if we a ministers, especially ordained ministers, continue to supportthe mind set that you dress like us and act like us, it will become increasingly difficult to to foster disciples of Jesus Christ who washed feet, ate with sinners, and said love God and love your neighbor as yourself.
So untuck your shirt, roll up your sleeves, build community, work for peace and justice and pray that God’s kingdom would come on earth as it is in heaven!