Wednesday, December 10, 2008


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.


  1. May God bless you, and your bare feet, and this blog!

    Love, Rita

  2. Hi, Revd Sarah!

    Came across your blog while looking for barefoot hiking clubs in the UK. I think it was very brave of you to decide to go barefoot at such a moment. I'm glad people seem to have been so positive about you and your bare feet and to come up with positive reasons. In Britain, a lot of guys are very uneasy about feet, and this expresses itself in some rather horrible jokes on the same level as that old stuff about wives and mothers-in-law.

    I'm a Franciscan Tertiary and people at my church ask me if I that's why I go barefoot as much as possible. My reply is "No, but that's a pretty good excuse!"

    I don't think your feet are ugly at all.

    Will try and follow your blog, but don't have my own email/internet facilities.

    Love and blessings!

    Jerry Hall

  3. Hello Sarah,
    you're so right! Being barefoot is the best way to feel in contact with nature and with god. Jesus sent his friends without shoes. They had to talk about the friendship with god and peace on earth. It's a wounderful sign of peace to be barefoot in public, unprotected and poor, but tough. People living barefoot for a long time are able to walk on every pavement, in every part of the world, to bring the good news of love.
    In the history of church most of the people forgot the order of the lord and wore shoes. That wasn't right. It's much better for christians to be barefoot in every situation, all year round. I try to live entirely barefoot. By the way: I am a Lutheran from Germany.

  4. Hi Rev. Sarah,
    This is a wonderful blog and God bless your ministry! I came across it by searching for general barefoot living. You might find very interesting the Society for Barefoot Living ( and its Yahoo group ) as there are at least 4 or 5 other barefoot ministers there among barefooters from many walks of life. It's a well-moderated group of people world-wide, mostly the U.S., who are mainstream people who see the benefits of going barefoot or who just enjoy a barefoot lifestyle. I'm an avid barefoot hiker and runner, and have been to many services with Mother Teresa's sisters who are always barefoot where they live.
    Tim in Chicago

  5. Dear Pastor Sarah,
    I'm a "barefooter" by physique (I have horrible feet for shoes) and nurture (I lived in S. California until 11). But moving to Virginia cured me of walking barefoot outside the bounds of our yard. So I grit my teeth and get the most bearable shoes I can.
    Two episodes of barefootery in the church. I had forgotten that I was supposed to be lecter one Sunday, and of course I had knocked my shoes off in the pew. My neighbor elbowed me and I jumped up and into the aisle. And realized I had no shoes. Well, I could be a fool by going and getting them or be a fool by walking up to the lectern. I walked up to the lectern. One of the acolytes stared at my feet the whole time, but it was strangely comfortable, and yes, I thought of God telling Moses to take off his shoes. Another time, I had to give a talk at the alter. This time I quite deliberately went up the aisle, pulled off my shoes and stepped up. I wanted to get people's attention, and I had it. I sing barefooted so I can feel rooted. And I love washing feet in the church; it feels like an incredibly intimate and loving thing to do.

  6. Chris Burton , IndianaFebruary 18, 2013 at 11:54 AM

    I think it is awesome you preach barefoot and dont feel or let others make you feel ashamed. I wish more churches would catch on to the idea. I along with my girlfriend and her children (teenagers) typically kick our sandals off in the pew every Sunday. The people who sit around us now consider it "normal" any more. Confidence is the key and letting God have control of the situation. God bless you in your barefoot journey of spreading the Gospel of Jesus Christ.


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