Tutu Theology

As chaplain residents, we were asked to write a theology of pastoral care to share with each other this week. The purpose of the paper is to articulate why we do what we do when we are in a room. Here’s my answer.

“Tutu Theology: A Theology of Spiriutal Imagination”

We are created beings, crafted by a creative God and meant to be extensions of God’s creativity in and to the earth, and to each other as each journeys along on the path of life. God is a loving and creative being, a caring companion and compassionate fellow traveler. As a creative source, God gifts us with the abilities to feel, perceive, experience, tell and re-tell events in life both good and bad.

Pastoral caregivers are gifted with the tools to creatively journey with people through suffering and distress, helping to find meaning and purpose in the midst of it all. I’ve come to the conclusion that anything can be meaningful, but not everything makes sense, and that things don’t necessarily have to make sense for them to be meaningful.

At the intersection of meaning and purpose, at the crossroads of what makes sense and what doesn’t, in the tension between suffering and hope, healing waits to begin its work. When two things that seem opposite in purpose, like suffering and hope happen simultaneously in someone’s life, wholeness happens when the rift between these two things is healed by a dissolution of the myth that they can’t exist together.

When opposites fight for a place in the life space of an individual, a loving and merciful God is there to hold the two things in tension together and make space for creative ways for suffering and hope to coexist – and meaning is found and purpose is given, and we move on toward more complete wholeness, bit by bit and little by little. In the meantime, the pastoral caregiver is there, to become the tangible representation of God as companion. The caregiver and the receiver of care share the burden of carrying the raw emotions, the hopes and the sorrows, dreams and realities, harsh presents and imagined futures – the tensions of a life that at this moment does not make sense, and by the grace of a loving God – one who does not orchestrate suffering to teach a lesson but enters into the suffering to help everyone involved to find a purpose – the moment finds a transcendent meaning that doesn’t have to make sense because instead, it creates peace and provides comfort, making everyone involved part of a larger picture of the way that God creatively does life with God’s created ones.

Personally, as a created and creative being, I choose to encompass God’s love, compassion, mercy, presence, and imagination by wearing a tutu. A couple of weeks ago, I baptized a child while wearing the tutu and that struggle of whether or not to wear it during a baptism was paramount to my journey in finding my pastoral authority and my pastoral voice – and somewhere between the wrestling with including this kind of spiritual imagination in my practice and the sacrament of baptism, my tutu became more than a visiting prop – it became a vestment: a representation of my authority as a creative being, called and crafted by a creative God to minister God’s creative imagination and care to others in a way that connects with the innocence of children and helps parents connect with the playfulness in their children that is buried somewhere in the hospital gowns, blankets and tubes – helping them find meaning and purpose in this particular time and in this particular space.



  1. Michael Summers

    Sara, Have you considered any parallels between your wearing the tutu and various unusual dress or actions employed by prophets like Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Ezekiel to communicate God’s message? Does your wearing it have theological importance to you or does it speak to your concept of ministry versus your protest of constraints on ministry (e.g., appropriate ministerial garb, boundaries on women in ministry)?

    1. sarainrealife

      Michael- I hadn’t thought that far as to the parallels. The tutu does hold a spiritual significance for me- as I have at hung for vestments. Not in a oo look at me I’m clergy way, but in a Gods work is do important, special and significant to me, that I signify my devotion w a stole or robe or other such vestment. 🙂

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