Some of you have asked me why I wear vestments (robe and stole) on Sunday mornings, and as a result, I’ve had some lovely conversations with folks about the topic. It occurred to me that the folks who asked me directly may not be the only ones wondering. Our services on Sunday morning, for me, are a sacred offering of words,
music, and silence that are central to my work as a minister. The stole symbolizes the yoke or mantle of the office of minister, and I did not wear one prior to my ordination. Wearing vestments signifies the importance of the work that I do in this context and the ways it connects to my personal call to ministry. Also, as woman in ministry, I find that vestments function as a sort of “uniform” which allows me to avoid the inevitable commentary on my sartorial choices.
In addition to vestments on Sundays, you will see me occasionally wear clericals, primarily when I’m doing ministry in the public square or for interfaith events. I know that some people are uncomfortable with the rising use of clericals among UU ministers, and I think it is helpful to understand why I choose to wear them.
The traditional “clergy collar” has roots in our Christian history and is therefore authentic to the Unitarian Universalist ministry. It was not something that I initially thought would become part of my wardrobe, but I have found that in many situations being quickly identifiable as ordained clergy is important. When we make a public witness as religious people, it matters that we are seen in that context.
More importantly, my first experiences as clergy were in LGBTQ pride parades, and I found that being identifiable as out queer clergy was profoundly healing to many in the LGBTQ community, particularly gay
men who had lived through the AIDS crisis. Over and over again, they would reach for my hand from the side of the parade route making eye contact, some with tears, some silently mouthing, “thank you.”
I understood then that, for me, it was essential and profoundly powerful to reclaim this symbol of the Office of Minister to which both women and queer people had been (and still are) refused access by so many religions. It matters more still to the people who can see me inhabit this role in the public square. I also occasionally wear clericals for a wedding, funeral, hospital visit, or other occasions when it is appropriate.