This Sunday will be my first Sunday as a pastor and I am absolutely thrilled, but I have to say when the congregation shared with me that there would be a baptism, I was a little concerned. I am overjoyed that my first Sunday will be marked with the baptism of a long-time member of our church and we will all be reminded that of the new life in Christ, especially with the lectionary passage coming out of Luke 14:25-33.
I am stumped and hesitant because . . . I don’t know what to wear.
I am realizing that as a woman preacher I don’t have a mental model for what women preachers wear week to week. I’ve seen Barbara Brown Taylor at preaching conferences, but in her parish ministry, she wore robes. As an episcopalian pastor, she never had to consider how those robes would hold up in an immersion baptism. I believe in believer’s baptism and in immersion whole-heartedly, but I don’t believe there were ever any instructions for what to wear while performing this beautifully sacred act, especially in congregation that don’t have baptismal robes. Taylor cites an experience she had a congregant’s house in which she was being celebrated for her work as pastor. She talks about how out of place she felt because as the party continued, people began to be thrown in the pool. They didn’t even look at her because she was the pastor and they would never consider throwing her in. She longed to be among them and not set apart from them. She longed for the distance to disappear.
I don’t think the congregation’s reaction to Taylor was purely out of the respect for their pastor. I think it might have also been because she was a woman in ministry. If you, as a women, were expected to be carefully modest growing up (or are serving a congregation in which your congregants were taught this), then the stakes are even higher as a preacher and pastor. People are going to watch more closely. People are going to be more critical. Then, there is the added pressure of being a novelty in the world (what would do you do? I am a preacher. wait, what?). Not only am I representing myself, but I am also standing up each Sunday with the knowledge that there are many women who are called to preach and pastor and have yet to find a church who would support them. I am standing for my daughters so that they may not have as much trouble becoming who they are because an outsider say they can’t pursue a certain profession because of their gender. I am standing for the women who have gone before me to teach and instruct and discuss women in ministry.
And I don’t take that lightly.
Yes, I am concerned about my wardrobe because whether we would like to admit it or not, women are still judged by their appearances and the whispers still come about whether a woman’s wardrobe is “appropriate” or not.
So, where do you buy a baptismal bathing suit that is appropriately holy?