“In elementary school, on the days my family couldn’t make it to church, I’d write a sermon, wrangle everyone into the living room, and lead a service,” laughs Leah Wise, a Houston-based Episcopal priest who also runs the ethical fashion blog StyleWise. Here, Leah shares five everyday looks…
“Growing up, my family attended a fundamental evangelical church. It always felt like a safe place, but as I got older, I started noticing the sexism and homophobia. By my mid 20s, I was tired of being in an environment that only heard only male voices. So, I stopped going. A year later, my husband and I visited an Episcopal church with a female pastor. Seeing her up there ignited my desire to serve in ministry. Today, I’m an ordained priest and the curate at Grace Episcopal Church in Houston.”
“I love Fleabag and think the hot priest discourse is so interesting, because most of the things he did would get him ex-communicated in real life! But it was one of the priest representations in pop culture that felt most accurate to me — warm, accepting. My favorite depiction of a church community is in Lars and the Real Girl. The movie takes place in a small rural Lutheran town, and Ryan Gosling’s character forms a romantic relationship with a sex doll. Instead of ostracizing him, his friends and family respond with empathy and sensitivity.”
“Our church has a day school, and I wear this while leading chapel for the preschoolers. Navy feels softer and more approachable than black. I wear these Crocs — the most comfortable shoes I own — every day except Sunday. One of our church attendants, Celina, a sweet woman in her 90s, always tells us priests ‘Don’t wear open-toed shoes while serving at Sunday service.’ It’s an old-school formality, but I am happy to respect it.”
“A motto we use in our church is ‘God loves you, no exceptions.’ If you’re LGBTQIA+ or an ally, and searching for affirming churches in your area, you can go to gaychurch.org. Look at denominational websites to see if they ordain women and queer people, and if you see diversity in their leadership. If it’s not too much of an anxiety, you could meet with clergy to ask them about the church’s beliefs and values. Or start by watching services online.”
“Years ago, I worked at Hobby Lobby, the chain of craft stores. One day, while unloading merchandise, I noticed ‘handmade’ labels on these little figurines. But the figurines were only $3. Seeing the ‘handmade’ endorsement and low price tag together made me realize that mass-produced goods are sometimes handmade, not pumped out of a machine. And they were being sold for next to nothing. So, what does that mean for the people who made them?”
“I started my blog, StyleWise, so I could meet other people who are interested in changing the fast-fashion system. Not everyone can afford sustainable clothes or has time to thrift, but doing what you can is great, a little at a time. I believe in approaching sustainable living from a place of solidarity. We are exploited by capitalism, and impacted by factors like wage suppression, hiring discrimination, lack of access, and economic recession. So, there’s always a place for empathy in the conversation.”
“I wore this outfit to the Houston Rodeo, when everyone wears their cowboy boots. I’ve always loved cowboy boots but felt like an imposter. When we moved to Texas, though, everyone was so friendly and welcoming. There’s a saying: ‘You weren’t born here but you came just as quick as you could.’ So, as soon as my husband and I settled in, I scoured the thrift stores for some boots.”
Thank you so much, Leah! You can follow her on Instagram, if you’d like.
(Photos by Julia Bri for Cup of Jo.)
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