Sunday, May 23, 2010

What to wear?

I just spent the last 2 hours packing for a trip to annual conference, the yearly meeting of the regional body of my denomination. Because I'm a preacher's kid, I started going to these things when I was about 10. Of course, as a kid, the requirements for my clothing were that I had some, that they were clean, and that they not have holes in them. Now that I am going as a clergy-person, the situation is somewhat more complex.
I am thrilled that we're not a stuffy, "nothing but suits" group of people, but at the same time, there would be some comfort in knowing exactly what is expected! Clothing at Annual Conference tends to range from hawaian shirts and khakis to three piece suits, and nearly everything in between- and that's just the men! So, the thing that I realized is that when there are no rules (written or unwritten) about what one should wear, the pressure actually intensifies.
Why? Because then what you wear is not merely your adaptation of the "uniform" but is, in fact, a bold statement, and for me, fashion might be the trickiest form of non-verbal communication.
Does a suit say "I respect the importance of what we're doing here" or "I take myself far too seriously" or perhaps, "I'm scared and I hope this suit will distract you from noticing I'm clueless"
If I go for a more trendy, casual professional look, does it denote that I am "young and energetic" or does it say that I'm "not quite grown up yet"
Then there is the element of being a woman, and the attempt to embrace femininity and my natural shape, without being overly sexy or inappropriate.

I know that anumma has hosted some discussion on the issue over at his blog

and there is a blog I frequent devoted to nothing but clergy fashion and appearances,

I'm curious how others, whether you are clergy or not, handle wardrobe decisions in settings where there are no set "rules."

Wednesday, May 19, 2010


Having just graduated seminary, I'm receiving a lot of congratulations right now. I always accept those congratulatory remarks, and I do acknowledge the hard work I put into my degree. At the same time, I am deeply aware of how many other people were in large or small ways, vital to getting me here, so I am using the absolute license of being a blogger to offer up my sincerest gratitude.
To my parents, who raised me to think critically, and never "dumbed down" dinner conversations. Our dining room table was my first university. I love you both dearly.
To my sisters, you have been my source of laughter when life just wasn't that funny, and I look up to all of you.
PreacherDad.... this blog is about to get very long. Thank you for the extra year up north to do this right. Thank you for being the kind of Dad who doesn't babysit, but raises his child. Thank you for late night coffee, and for the countless dishes and laundry loads you did to keep our house running. Thank you for being my favorite colleague and my best friend. I love you!!!!

And then there are so many others.
Dr. Sanchez, for identifying my illness and sparing me the unnecessary agony of chemo.
Dr. Tracy Frederick, for putting me through the paces in college, so master's level work wasn't a total shock.
The Boucher family, for loving me like one of their own.
Plainfield UMC for creating an internship for me to spare me an extra commute
Beth and Jon Wilterdink- I would be embarrassed to list here the number of things I have asked of you, and I'm humbled by how willing you have been to help whenever you can.

And to the faculty & staff at G-ETS
The prayers you have lifted up for me have been deeply felt.
There are a few faculty who signaled to me at graduation last year, and mouthed the words "Next year that's you!" I simply cannot count the number of times that has carried me through a long night or a rough commute.
Others of you have kept your doors open, willingly answered anxious e-mails, and surprised me with your unwavering faith in me. I fear you will never understand how deeply it has impacted me.

Fellow students,
Oh my friends! Your cups of coffee, hugs, tears shed together, class notes shared and baby wrangling was indispensable to me.

When it is printed, the degree will have my name on it, but it is truly an accomplishment of many.

As the academic year draws to a close, to whom do you owe a debt of gratitude?

Friday, May 7, 2010

Red Shoes

There is a beautiful tradition at Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary of wearing red shoes at graduation. In the past, this has primarily been a tradition of the women of G-ETS, but I hear rumors we may see some red shoes on our male colleagues. Fabulous, I say!

The tradition, though, fails to be beautiful if no one knows the story behind the shoes.

Why do we wear red shoes?

We wear red shoes to remind us of our place as courageous, outrageous women, and to celebrate the rich tradition of female scholarship at GETS.

What does wearing red shoes have to do with female scholarship?

It begins with a story that Georgia Harkness used to tell of her great-grandmother Abigail.

As Georgia told the story, "Abigail was not only not a quaker, but was known as a 'worldly woman,' who affronted neighbors by 'appearing out of plainness' and was referred to scornfully as ' the woman in the red coat.'

Whether because of the red coat or more abiding charms, she won the heart of Daniel Harkness and they were married in November, 1802."

In response, the Society of Friends presented Daniel Harkness with a letter of dismissal for marrying out of the meeting. To 'make satisfaction t o the meeting' he would only have had to say he was sorry he married her. But he was not sorry, and he would not say it!" Georgia stated flatly-and proudly.(Keller, 33)

Wait... Who was Georgia Harkness?

Georgia Harkness has become one of the legendary personalities of Garrett-Evangelical. She was the first professional female theologian in the United States. She served as the first ever Professor of Applied Theology at Garrett Biblical Institute from 1939-1950 before moving to California to teach at the Pacific School of Religion until 1961. In addition to her teaching she was a prolific author and hymn-writer. Most telling of her character, though, is a story she told of her struggle to be accepted the Ph.D. program of her choice.

Edgar Brightman, the distinguished professor of philosophy at Boston University and Georgia’s mentor in her doctoral program in the 1920s initially questioned whether she was that exceptional and whether he should take her as a Ph.D. candidate. He judged that “I had the preparation, probably the brains, but that I lacked the stick-to-itiveness.” Clear in her own mind, Georgia “told him that if that was all, I would see to that.” And she did. (Keller, 35)

Click here for a link to a much more in-depth look at Georgia’s life

So who decided we should wear red shoes?

The story of the woman in the red coat was recorded in a biography of Georgia Harkness’s life, For Such A Time As This written by Rosemary Skinner Keller. She feared that Georgia’s story, and with it, the history of women’s entry into professional theology in the US, might be lost. Keller was on faculty at Garrett-Evangelical from 1978-1996, and she served from 1993-1996 as the seminary’s first female Academic Dean. During her time on the G-ETS faculty she took to wearing red shoes to honor the legacy of Georgia Harkness and her great-grandmother Abigail Cochran. The tradition spread to other female faculty members, and has in recent years become a tradition of the student body.

Read more about Rosemary Skinner Keller here:

Our red shoes are not a privilege we earn, but a history we claim. We honor Georgia Harkness, Rosemary Radford Reuther, Rosemary Skinner Keller, and so many others with our red shoes. We claim our place in their legacy, and with it we accept the responsibility to continue to move the world forward, to maintain their history, and to advance theological thinking. We proclaim our willingness to be bold, to be ourselves, and to show the world how much stick-to-itiveness we have!

*I have pulled biographical information about Georgia and Rosemary from both of the links embedded in the post. In addition both quotes above, as well as addition biographical information about Georgia are from Rosemary Skinner Keller's biography of Georgia Harkness For Such a Time as This, Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1992

Special Thanks go to Dr. Lallene Rector, Dr. Gennifer Brooks, and Dr. Ruth Duck for pointing me to the origins of our red shoes.