Friday, June 24, 2011

Ordination to the Diaconate

On June 18th, I was ordained as a deacon at Christ Church Cathedral in Houston, Texas along with 10 other marvelous people. I don’t know if words can describe how I felt or what it was like. In some ways, it was like a wedding with 10 other people getting married that I didn’t have to plan. There were two bishops, a brass band, choir, and all of the pomp and circumstance that such an event demands. The cathedral was mostly full, and, save for my wedding day, I have never felt so surrounded by people who love me and support me and have prayed for me throughout this five year journey.

It was a hot and humid June day in Houston (surprise, surprise), and nerves combined with multiple layers of vestments did not help. First, we processed in, were individually presented by our groups of clergy and lay presenters, and then signed the Order of Conformity, that we agreed to conform to the doctrine, discipline, and worship of the Episcopal Church.


From there on, it was like a normal Eucharistic service – readings and a marvelous sermon by the Bishop of Northwest Texas. Then it was time for our ordination. We took our hassocks (fancy word for kneeler-thingies) and kneeled in front of the bishop while he pressed his hands on our heads and asked for the Holy Spirit to come into us. My friends who were ordained last year warned us that he was a bit heavy-handed and to brace ourselves so we didn’t fall over.


Then we were vested with our stoles. Joe approached with the stole that my parents had given me and put it over my left shoulder, which is how deacons wear their stoles. The bishop introduced us to the congregation, gave us our Bibles, and we shared the peace. That is when my eyes begin to water a little bit. I had kept it together through the rest of the service, but I could hardly believe that this was really happening. I honestly thought it might not ever happen. Even walking to the church, I kept thinking something would prevent me from actually getting ordained.


My role during the Eucharist was to serve as an oblationer and hold the flagon of wine, which went very smoothly. Although I was in the back, I still got to see several people who showed up to support me. The service took about two hours, but it seemed like time had stopped and everything in the world was centered on that moment in time. I imagined my great-aunt and great-uncle, an Episcopal priest, watching from heaven with glee and felt surrounded by the prayers of everyone who couldn’t be there. I remembered when I first told Joe that I felt called to the ordained ministry when we first started dating and now he was vesting me.


Afterwards, we took a quick group picture (Yes, I was the youngest person ordained that day.) and headed inside for air conditioning and the presentation of our ordination certificates. The certificates are intense and include a wax seal with the imprint of the bishop’s ring.


And now you know my last name and can stalk me (though it wouldn’t have been that hard to figure out or find before).


Joe, the parentals, and me.


The bishop and me without all of our vestments on.


And the whole family, including my niece Anna, at our post-celebration lunch at Hugo’s.

Thank you all for all of your thoughts and prayers during this time!

Friday, June 10, 2011

Update from Camp

Not unlike when I attended camp as a camper, I was anxious and nervous about going and have ended up having the time of my life. This is possibly the best job I could’ve had after finishing up three emotionally, mentally, and intellectually challenging years of Divinity School. I’m being challenged but affirmed in my calling and am reminded of all of the things that they don’t always tell us in seminary. Namely, ministry is FUN!

Leading the pre-camp group in reflecting on what they enjoyed about camp.

So far we’ve planned and executed pre-camp with the little-bitties and their parents and planned the big camp sessions. When I go back tomorrow, we’ll be preparing for the arrival of the high-schoolers that afternoon. It helps that the college-age counselors that I am working with are fantastic and full of energy and great ideas. They’ve welcomed me with open arms, and hanging out with them reminds me of the great times I had with my friends at my college Episcopal student group.

Counselors practicing a carry-out with Ranger Jason should, God-forbid, someone get seriously injured on a hike.

In addition to aspects of ministry that I’ve done previously – teaching, preaching, serving the sacraments, leading a group in prayer, etc. – I’ve also acted as a drama coach, put together a week-long curriculum with a theme, refereed watermelon scramble, played foursquare, danced to Taylor Swift with pre-campers, been hit with toilet paper rolls during a game, and let my feet be mercilessly tickled in the pool.

Kids at labyrinth in Abbo’s Alley at Sewanee

While I miss Joe and the cats, so far, camp has been a great reminder of how much joy I feel when I’m serving God and how much I feel like I’m living into who God has called me to be when I’m doing ministry. Even though what I learned in graduate school was important, sometimes it was hard to see past my grades on finals or the tedium of writing papers to what Divinity School was preparing me to do and be. Being outside in creation, leading kids and adults in prayer after a bonfire and s’mores, being witnessed to by the rest of the staff, that’s what it’s really about.

My temporary home sweet home.

Monday, June 6, 2011

What To Wear?: Clergy Edition

In the Episcopal Church, it is common for clergy to wear a clerical collar, which poses some interesting issues for female clergy. Guys have it a little easier because they can basically just swap out their regular shirt for a clerical shirt. One of the blessings and curses of being a woman is that we have more flexibility in professional dress: dresses, skirt suits, dress pants, blouses, etc. The options are limitless, but having to work a professional wardrobe around a collar can be a bit trying. Additionally, nice, well-made, professional clothes are not inexpensive. While investing in the basics is certainly worthwhile, sometimes you need to buy more than one pair of pants at a time.


Fortunately, nowadays, companies like WomenSpirit, who specialize in clergywear for women, exist. Instead of shirts tailored for men, it’s now possible to order a variety of styles of shirts that come with a collar that are actually made to fit a woman’s body shape.

I know that I’m not what people envision when they think about a priest. I’m young. I’m female. I try to be relatively hip, fashionable, and fun. I have two tattooes, and my belly button pierced. As a pear-shaped person, I like to dress in a way that emphasizes my waist but skims over my heavier hips and thighs. I would say that my personal style is professional but feminine. I have a style-crush on Emma Pillsbury from Glee, with a little less fuss.


Fortunately, the basic Emma template makes a great option for a clergy “uniform”. Pumps + skirt + cardigan over a “janie” or sleeveless shell works well. I also love that Emma wears a lot of color and accessorizes well. It’s easy to stick with basic black, but perhaps even a fun brooch can jazz it up a little bit. Even though I still feel like I’m might get struck by lightning when I put on my collar, here’s what the top half of the Emma-template might look like, as worn with a black knee-length skirt:


I think that this will give me a template with which to work, swapping out dress pants for the skirt or a blazer for the cardigan. I also purchased two Tahari skirt suits from SteinMart, which is my happy place. I’m always able to find professional, well-fitting clothes for a great price there.

Shoes pose another issue. My mom is always saying that she is searching for a purse that is bigger on the inside than it is on the outside. I’m searching for a shoe that is as comfortable as a flat but with a heel. No frump allowed. As bad as high heels are for your body, a little lift (1 1/2” – 2” heel) helps me feel more confident, particularly when I’m preaching. Closed-toe is certainly preferred for serving at the altar or making pastoral visits at the hospital, and I like something fashionable but not so distracting that you receive comments on your shoes rather than your sermon.

I love these. They’re $69 on Zappos and come in other colors. If the heel were slightly shorter, these would be perfect.

It’s definitely going to take some trial and error to figure out what works and is flattering with the clerical collar. I also have blogs like Beauty Tips for Ministers to help me with the task of looking put together while in the trenches of ministry. I know there are things I haven’t even considered that I’ll likely run into. This doesn’t even cover vestments!

How would you describe your style?