Out of the Loop

On Sunday morning, someone in one of my Facebook groups exclaimed the awesomeness of “so many pics of red shoes” in her newsfeed. I then looked through mine; no red shoes and no other mention of them. So I went back to the group and asked what it was about, and I got a one-word response: “PENTECOST!!!”

And I was still baffled.

The respondent had to show me the liturgical colors explanation from the United Church of Christ for me to even come close to understanding that not only is red the color of this Christian holy day, but that women (and maybe men too?) wear red shoes. I’m still not sure I get the shoe thing…but what I do know is that I felt out of the loop.

It feels strange to not understand Christian practices, as someone who grew up in late 20th century America. It’s one thing to not understand Muslim practices, or Hindu practices, for example, as I didn’t grow up in communities where those religions surrounded me. But I know – or thought I knew – at least the basics of Christianity. In order to get a good religious education in a town too far from a Unitarian Universalist congregation, our folks sent us to the local Methodist church. Studies of English and American history and literature requires a knowledge of Christianity. And heck, our own denomination springs from two Christian denominations.

So why don’t I understand red shoes on Pentecost? Or why Protestants get all into the Lent/Holy week thing, when they didn’t when I was a kid? Or any number of other things that everyone else seems to know and considers basic, but I don’t?

I feel out of the loop – but also that I’m missing something. Other people are off singing and dancing in their new red shoes, and I’m sitting here surrounded by flower communions and final services and just random everyday UU services, filled with people who have no clue this is a special day in the religion from whence we sprang.

And honestly, it makes me sad. Not because I think we should be like other Christians – one look at Channing’s Baltimore Sermon scratches that off the list. And not  because we should adopt the Christian liturgical calendar and do all the things they do. We have too many other sources whose wisdom and traditions we also want to celebrate.

But are we missing something by only celebrating our Christian sources on Easter and Christmas? Or are we honoring what we have become? Is it really okay that we have our own liturgical calendar, with special holy days that are just ours (flower communion, ingathering, etc.) with just hints of Christian, Jewish, Muslim, pagan, and other holy days? Is it okay to feel out of the loop?

I admit to feeling a bit heartsick that I don’t have a tradition of wearing red shoes on Pentecost or feeling the agony and ecstasy of Holy Week, or observing the fullness of Passover, or marking all the sabbats with glorious circles and spiral dances.

And so I sit, longing for a kind of belonging I will never have as long as Unitarian Universalism is what makes my heart sing. It’s not a bad thing… just something to ponder.



  1. I feel the same way! I even tweeted on Sunday that it was Pentecost…but that my church was celebrating Pride. It felt like an appropriate thing to celebrate…and I’m sure I can come up with some good reasons if I reflect on it long enough.

    But I say all of this as someone who was raised a Christian. And every time I get to that place of nostalgia, or longing, or hoping, or whatever…sentimentality…I think to myself, “what about all the UU’s who were not raised Christian and for whom the Christian liturgical year holds little meaning?” I don’t have an answer, but this also is something to consider.

    p.s. I don’t know what the red shoes are about either. I wouldn’t have thought about liturgical colors at all if you hadn’t mentioned them. However, I have a vague recollection of dolls wearing all white with red accessories for some holiday. Maybe that was Pentecost? Obviously the association, like so much else in my religious education, was not explained clearly to me if at all.

    1. “Dolls” was supposed to say “folks”. I may need to abstain from posting comments from my phone. 🙂

  2. Kimberley, I think it may be as much a matter of time & focus constraints as anything else. If we go deeply into the celebrations of our various sources, could make for a rather crowded liturgical calendar. Which leaves us only with the biggies, it seems. I suppose it’s one of the drawbacks of being a multiply-sourced religion-of-religions, as it were. Which of them do we choose to acknowledge on any given Sunday? As for the red shoes—totally new to me as well—methinks any Sunday is a fine time for that! 🙂

Support this site

I am an entrepreneurial minister, which means I am a freelancer, and every part of my income comes from the work I do. The Hymn by Hymn Project was and is a labor of love, but I now am incurring increasing costs for hosting the site.

If everyone who visited gave just $5, those costs would be covered in a single week.

Whether you give once or monthly, your generosity will keep Hymn by Hymn free and available to to the tens of thousands of people who benefit from it.

Please support the project!


Learn more about my ministry at The Art of Meaning

Read my thoughts about congregational life at Hold My Chalice


%d bloggers like this: