Friday, June 10, 2011


Here is something Terribly Serious for us to debate: should women wear leggings to stand up in front of their church?

Last weekend I stood up as part of the worship service at my church - something I do quite often as a lay leader and DRE. Here is a tiny clip I took from a video, just so you can see my "look".

The full effect was very close to this look by movie actress Liv Tyler (I flatter myself that I looked at least this good).

But I was wearing leggings, and in a recent post on "Beauty Tips for Ministers", this is a big No No.

Fellow DRE, Chalice Spark, wrote a follow-up post about the different fashion standards on the two coasts - a serious factor here. I am a West Coast DRE, serving in a small liberal city, and most of the congregation wears jeans, or even spandex bike outfits to church on Sundays. Our minister plays it safe and wears the same all-black collared suit every Sunday.

And the debate continues! (We must be in a slow news cycle, UU blogging-wise). Strange Attractor has weighed in as well. From Alaska, she still says NO on the leggings.

I quite liked my outfit last Sunday, and thought it was fitting for a day with a high of 60 degrees and participating in the Coming of Age and Youth services. Of course, lay leaders aren't held to quite the strict standards the ministers are - and thank goodness.

It makes me worry about what I'll wear next Sunday!


  1. Oh yes! I think we religious educators do have to dress for the role--but we also need to consider the culture of the church we serve. It's probably different even just a couple of dozen miles apart here in Seattle!

  2. A comment having technical difficulties:

    Now, Sara, I loved seeing this tiny little clip because (a) you do look beautiful and (b) I think I recognize exactly what you are doing in the service :).

    But, I can't get on board with "lay leaders aren't held to quite the strict standards the ministers are - and thank goodness." For several reasons.

    (a) You are "lay" only in that you are not an ordained minister. You are not akin to the "lay leaders" within the congregation, but rather a non-ordained religious professional. There is a different set of expectations there too that gets easily missed when compressing yourself into the category of "lay leader." There is too much nuance in the debate for this compression.

    (b) Aside from the robe and stole, which is sometimes contextual by coasts as well, I am not sure that those of us who are non-ordained religious professionals are held to different standards. If we were polling congregations, I have a feeling that those who are comfortable with more casual wear on Sunday would be comfortable with it on minister or DRE, and those who are less comfortable with casual wear on Sunday at church would probably find it a turn-off on both ministers and DREs. I have heard some folks argue that ministers really ought to dress down to meet people where they are at. I suspect they'd be fine with leggings in the pulpit or at a board meeting.

    (c) I think religious educators should dress up partly because we get taken more seriously when we do, as a body of religious professionals. I have a stake in that. Part of the reason we might not be "held to the same standards" as those who are doing ordained ministry (lord knows we do ministry as religious educators, ordained or not) is that we aren't always held to the same degree of respect. If people can write off what you do as "oh, that stuff down the hall with the kids" (as if what you do is just "stuff down the hall" that matters little), they'll probably also be the kind of people who really don't care what you wear anyway, because well...your mostly down the hall cutting out paper hearts and refilling glue bottles and stuff in any case. If someone respects you as a professional, they'll expect you to look like, well, a professional. I agree with Kari that there is a different west and east coast culture, but even on the west coast -- though rare would be the religious professional wearing a suit every single Sunday like I now do here on the east coast -- there was a difference among non-ordained religious professionals who contributed to a sense of professionalism by dressing up in west coast fashion and those who detracted by dressing down because they could get away with it. Image does matter, and like it or not, we are all representatives of our collegial body. I like to err on the side of projecting the image "I take my work seriously, so you should too."