Post Author: Sarah Kinney Gaventa
Long or Short?
The Frump Factor
The Public Face
While our parishioners do not own our hair, they are affected by it. And thus our final hair dilemma is born. When do those we serve get a vote on how we wear our hair? Sometimes appropriate boundaries are firmly crossed.
A YCW shares this story: The funniest/scariest story I have about preaching and hair took place in a
very small, rural congregation that must have worked up quite a bit of courage to invite me in the first place. I had not yet learned about hairspray and bobby pins for unruly bangs. I did know not to fidget with them, though, and they were slightly longer than they should have been. So, mea culpa. There. I’ve said it. BUT this does not justify the 50-year-old man who, instead of shaking my hand in the germiest ritual of pastoral life, the end of service receiving line, reached up and TUCKED MY HAIR BEHIND MY EAR FOR ME saying, ‘There. Isn’t that better?’ I wasn’t sure whether to feel like a five-year-old or a trollop.”
Thankfully, sometimes our parishioners are able to articulate how our haircuts affect their ability to hear the word of God through us, rather than repositioning our hair themselves. Being either stupid or
incredibly narcissistic, I got my own hair cut into the aforementioned bob the day our parish left for our parish weekend at a local retreat center. I spent two days basking in the glow of parishioners’ compliments, as my husband rolled his eyes.
The first Sunday I preached with the haircut, though, a handful of parishioners complained that my hair fell in my eyes and distracted them. Some offered helpful suggestions like, “You need a hair clip!” While at first I was irritated that they would offend my glorious new haircut, after I caught myself brushing my hair out of my eyes for the third time one sermon, I thought perhaps they were onto something. Now, I keep a headband in the vesting room and I try to remember to put it on immediately before preaching.
Making adjustments to adapt to our congregations’ needs can be done with resentment or with a sense of fun. The niece of a YCW may have the answer to this dilemma of balancing our congregation’s needs with our own. This YCW in New England writes, “My oldest niece played with my Clergy Barbie doll all week. It was hilarious, because she kept doing all these little plays about worship. She went out to Old Navy and came home with these tiny barrettes for Clergy Barbie. Someone made a comment about getting her (Barbie’s) hair out of her eyes to preach, and Stephanie said, “These are NOT to get her hair out of her eyes. These are Jesus bling barrettes.”
For me, this image of Jesus bling barrettes captures both the fundamental silliness of this whole conversation about hair, and also the joy of serving God as young women in the 21st century. We have the luxury of being allowed to participate in ordained ministry and the luxury of worrying about our hair. We have the freedom to do work only men were allowed to do for many years, while still wrestling with a fundamental feminine issue. We have the gift of working out what it means to be serve Christ, while being fully ourselves. What joy. What freedom. What a gift.
The Rev. Sarah Kinney Gaventa is the Associate Rector at Emmanuel Episcopal Church in Greenwood, Virginia. She continues to enjoy her new haircut, but is distressed by the seeming multiplication of grey hairs that is occurring in it.
Image by: Jo_Johnson, lexie janney, Milada Vigerova, Hust Wilson
Used with permission