I was ordained as a pastor on Nov. 10, 2007. Throughout most of the service, I wore shoes. But shortly before the rite of ordination I slipped them off. I knelt at the altar with the soles of my feet exposed, earning me the nickname The Barefoot Pastor.
I'd decided to go barefoot well before the actual day of the ordination, but I didn’t really know why. It had something to do with God's command that Moses take off his sandals in the presence of the Holy. It also had something to do with my tendency to be barefoot whenever possible (a trait I clearly inherited from my mother). Beyond that, I can only say that at that time it made perfect sense. Being barefoot helped expose me to God. I felt the Spirit fill me from the hands pressing in on my head to the soles of my feet.
Going barefoot felt like a personal little decision – between me and God. I assumed that since for the short time when my feet were bare I was basically hidden from sight by a line of pews and a crowd of pastors, no one would notice.
I was wrong. It seemed as if everyone noticed and questioned my bare feet. Quite a few people guessed reasons far better than the ones I could come up with for why I'd do such a thing:
Did I do it out of solidarity with the shoeless poor around the world? Because bare feet symbolize the road to Emmaus and the journey of faith (from Luke 24 - the gospel for the day)? As a reminder of the servant leadership that got Jesus on his knees washing the disciples' bare feet?
I wish I had such good reasons. But the truth is I hadn't made the decision in any kind of rational way. I just decided it and dressed accordingly.
Like many little choices, the decision to be barefoot at my ordination continues to take on meaning and I keep thinking about it. How does a barefoot attitude affect the life of a pastor and the church?
Think about it. Bare feet are tough but vulnerable. They're gnarled, calloused, bunion-y, smelly, and a bit ugly (at least mine are). They're usually made respectable and kept safe in shoes or boots. But when exposed, barefeet are tender. They're subject to cuts and cold and pebbles and broken glass but also subject to pampering with a foot massage, a pedicure, or a good old fashioned foot washing. You can tell a lot about a person by tending to their feet.
Welcome to my blog, the Barefoot Pastor. It's written primarily as a way to introduce ideas that don't fit neatly in a Bible Study or the pulpit but that I want to explore with my congregation. I write with Prince of Peace Lutheran Church, Gaithersburg MD as my primary audience, but hope that others will join in the conversations we begin here.
Please add comments about specific topics you'd like to see addressed. This is a place for me to be barefoot from time to time and I welcome others to take off their shoes here too.