Real Preachers Wear Stilettos

Real Preachers Wear Stilettos December 19, 2005

I am going to write a book someday. I’m sure of it. I’ve already assembled quite a few topics I’ve filed away, things I know I have profound thoughts about somewhere . . . if only I could find them.

It was suggested to me today by a church member that I entitle my yet-to-be-written book Real Preachers Wear Stilettos. Boy does that tell you something about the sort of people who worship at Calvary (thanks for the suggestion, Kevin)!

Kevin’s suggestion, however, leads me to think about something that’s been bothering me for quite sometime, and now seems a perfect time to get it off my chest.

It’s about my hair.

At first it started as a joke–somebody at church would mention my hair, something about the way I was styling it or something like that, and I would laugh and brush it off as insignificant. But yesterday it just got ridiculous; I stopped counting after 10 comments ranging from, “Your hair looks nice today” to “What have you done to your hair today?” to “Want some advice? Lose the barrette!”

When I wondered aloud if there was something in the water one of our long-time members chimed in, “Well, we’re the ones who have to look at you for an hour every week!”

You know, you can’t argue with that logic.

The thing is, if you really must know, I am trying to grow my hair out in my constant, life-long quest to look like Meg Ryan. So for awhile it is going to look different, weird, strange, whatever.

On one level I appreciate that people even notice. Wouldn’t the world be a sad and lonely place if no one ever noticed anything about you?

On another increasingly more prominent level, I will admit that I am starting to feel rather annoyed. In my opinion the only people who should care about my hair are me and the woman who cuts it, though to be perfectly honest I really don’t even think she cares about it as much as some of my church members seem to.

In the world of church organization I understand that different size churches focus organizationally on different things. For example, the “family size church” is like an extended biological family system and functions much in the same way. The larger “program size church” gathers around the quality and variety of its programs. At this point in its organizational life Calvary is what is known as a “pastoral size church”, defined by Alice Mann in her book The In-Between Church as “a coalition of several overlapping family-friendship networks unified around the person and role of the pastor.”

I understand this phenomenon and I welcome it to some degree. I understand that people need a focal point around which to gather. In light of current comments about my hair, however, two things have started to bother me.

First, in the final analysis it really isn’t going to matter much what my hair looks like. Really.

Sara Groves got it right on her album, Conversations: “When I stand before the Lord, I’ll be standing alone. This journey is my own.” It’s not like God and I will be having “the talk” and there will be someone standing behind me protesting: “But you have to admit she did have a very cute hair cut during Advent 2005!”

I can’t ever forget that. I don’t WANT to ever forget that.

I don’t have all the answers to the meaning of life but I am pretty sure that whatever they are they have little or nothing to do with my hair.

And second, when folks come to worship at Calvary I really hope they can sit in that beautiful sanctuary and WORSHIP. This is precisely why I wear a robe . . . to help people focus away from the personality and more toward the purpose for which we gather. I understand that the pastor sets the tone but when church becomes about anything other than hoping for an encounter with God, well, then, I am not doing my job.

I don’t know what the solution to this dilemma could be . . . I guess I can’t really control what people think about my hair, can I? But I can tell you this: I am not sure if it’s true, what Kevin said . . . that real preachers wear stilettos. Frankly, some very scary mental pictures spring to mind at this phrase (Brother Palmer in 5 and 1/4-inch patent leather mules?!?!?). I don’t personally own a pair and, even if I did I am doubtful that I could make it across the dais without falling flat on my face.

No, I think real preachers love Jesus, and no matter what I’m wearing, if that doesn’t come across when you meet me. . . well, it might be time to change more than my hairstyle.

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  • revrachel

    I love it! I once wrote this “Life is Short” for the Style section along the same lines (it didn’t get published, though… maybe I should get a blog of my own!)

    Parties, happy hours, my husband’s work events–the same question always gets asked. It is Washington, after all. But I don’t have a typical Washington job. “I’m a pastor,” I say, and then smile in response to their surprised expression or the awkward silence. I am young and a woman. (That always throws people.) I even own a pair of black leather pants. But my job is visiting the sick, baptizing babies, teaching, preaching. And I love it. I wish everyone I met at parties could say that.

  • Elizabeth Evans

    This was a great blog… I am also a pastor so I totally agree. I work as a student associate while in seminary in NC. Even if people don’t make explicit comments about what I am wearing, I know they notice. It is abnormal if I don’t get a full head to toe stare everytime I walk in the building on Sunday morning from several people. One women in particular at my church is always fixated on my shoes. I usually greet her by saying hello but I know she won’t look me in the eyes until she has checked out my feet.

    Furthermore, last Sunday I was in a long conversation with several women of the church about my hair. They wanted to know if it was naturally curly and what kind of hair supplies I used. I couldn’t believe they were so interested, but considering Amy’s drama over her hair, I realized this was nothing strange. Maybe just maybe a conversation one Sunday about my hair may build a relationship with an person that will want to talk about the meaning of life the next week… I’ll never know, so I’m going to keep talking about the value of quality selection of hair gel. Oh the joys of being a female pastor.

  • Jim


    This is fabulous. Your best yet. And have I mentioned? I love your hair.

  • Katie

    Maybe you could wear a hairnet. Or a wimple! Boy, wouldn’t that get the comments.

    But I guess people wouldn’t really be listening that much that Sunday. They’d all be staring at . . . where your hair should be.

  • Dr. Bruce Prescott

    I’m starting to get an inferiority complex. I don’t wear stilettos and a lot of my hair has stopped growing (since it has fallen out).

    If I was in D.C., I’d come listen to you even without the stillettos and regardless of the hair style.

  • PeaceBang

    Great post, sister. I have come to believe that inquiries about our hair or make-up are an appropriate way for our parishioners to express love and attentiveness. Yes, it’s also sexist and inappropriate when it’s sexist and inappropriate, but I really think it’s a form of admiration.

  • Stuckwidiot2

    Jesus wore sandals.
    Good enough for me.