Betsy Porter

Betsy Porter
Art and Iconography

Fashions Of Saint Gregory's

How To Vest, Dress, Or Dress Up For Church In San Francisco!

Saint Gregory of Nyssa Church is a hotbed of creative arts. Our congregation of about 200 includes many musicians, composers, visual artists, makers of clothing and jewelry, writers, poets, theater people, and do-it-yourselfers. These talents benefit all of us. Many of the hymns we sing were written by members of the congregation. Our most beautiful vestments were designed and crafted by church members.

The congregation is a strong and generous community, full of friendships, full of stories. We serve one another in prayer, compassion, and practical help; and we serve the larger community with a weekly food pantry and numerous charitable activities.

But we love to celebrate! Our Rotunda hosts parties, concerts, drama, and dancing as well as worship; and these activities become integrated into our praise of God.

Part of the aesthetic pleasure of attending Saint Gregory’s comes from seeing others in their “Sunday Best.” Although most of us dress casually, those who enjoy dressing up do so, sometimes quite inventively and even spectacularly - another way to use our imaginations in praise. After much discussion on one of our list serves, the time has come to document our fashion triumphs and extravaganzas!


Saint Gregory’s is full of beautiful textiles collected from all over the world. Some serve as furniture covering; others are to wear. For services, not only clergy but also our music director and lay deacons wear vestments.

Most of our many vestments are cotton (former restaurant tablecloths), exquisitely tie dyed in West Africa, where they serve as everyday clothing. But our very best have been designed and crafted of silk, mostly by Mary Grove.

Many people, both vested and un-vested, wear neck crosses strung with

Lay deacon John Stansbury wears a reversible hand-dyed silk vestment which I made for the ordination of the Rev. Lynn Baird. (The same vestment is shown on the More Art page.)

Lay deacon Zach Finley in a West African tie-dyed cotton vestment. His silver cross is strung with carved jade.

An exhibit of silk vestments by Mary Grove, June 2007. In addition to the three displayed on the floor, two more are hung on the wall. Mary selects extraordinary fabrics, many of them from Japan, and trims them with braid and antique ribbon. Lizzie Calogero assisted.

We have photographed and catalogued all our vestments - this required several Saturday mornings.

Rev. Philip Wickeri, a professor at San Francisco Theological Seminary and the Graduate Theological Union (GTU) served as thesis advisor to new GTU grad Marina True.

Rev. Daniel Simons and Nicholas Dolce.
Photo by Lynn Park

Rev. Paul Fromberg wears a vestment of textured golden silk from Japan - a piece designed and made by Mary Grove. The same vestment is shown above in the photo of Mary's exhibit.

Photo by Lynn Park

Music Director Sanford Dole designs and sews many of his vestments - this one is trimmed with buttons.

Rev. Will Hocker in warm-weather vestments.


The particular inspiration for this page, and our unquestioned style star, is Jeremy Carroll, an intellectual Brit who calls himself a “queer heterosexual” – unusual even in this city of myriad gender identities. Every week, he outdoes himself with ever more astonishing outfits, mostly pink. Although thrift-shop women’s clothing is required for his favored fashion effects, they greatly transcend mere cross-dressing. He does not try to look like a woman or dress in a feminine manner, he just wears the clothes he likes. His clever and inventive fashion statements are the envy of us women, who wish we had his self-confidence.

Every now and then he even wears some men's clothes, just so as not to feel overly dependent on a single image.

Even in this famously liberal city, Jeremy pays a harsh price for his imaginative and unique style. At times he is subjected to rude remarks, catcalls, and worse.

Anna Maria Stone and Jeremy Carroll

Jeremy Carroll writes:
Further reflections on “Sunday best”

I got home after church, and changed into something more appropriate for a hike up around St Bruno, which emphasized that I had dressed for church.

On my walk I reflected a bit on Sunday Best - for St Gregory's I usually just throw on some clothes from my wardrobe, without much care or attention - this morning was much more reminiscent of my time in London (2004 - 2006) when I would dress for church, religiously. About a third of the congregation would also wear Sunday Best (although with a more traditional interpretation); there was a particularly Afro-Caribbean lady who brooked no competition.

Prior to that period, I really hadn't understood Sunday Best at all. It had seemed to me to be disingenuous, deceitful even. “Just as I am, Sweet Jesus.” But then clothes became more important to me, and when practical constraints meant that during the rest of the week, I couldn't be at my best - then when would be a better time to dress for Heaven than on a Sunday morning. (Heaven is a famous nightclub in London). And it just started seeming to be commonsense, of course you should look your best for church.


There are lots of other stylish men at Saint Gregory's; like Fred Merritt and Elliott. Right; Brendan Curran

jewelry designer and silversmith Jennifer Cross Gans, collects silver jewelry from many cultures. Here she wears her prized Tuareg ensemble.

An even more amazing Tuareg pendant (or breastplate?) and Jennifer's Zuni pendant of silver inlaid with gemstones.

On the Sunday after Easter ("Bright Sunday"), many of us wear hats - preferably funny hats. Here are Judith Tucker and Jessica Anderson in their after-Easter bonnets.

Writer and photographer Lynn Park wears her flowery turban.

Kathleen Hamill wears a necklace of jade and silver.

Jessica Anderson wears cool stuff, often acquired during her international travels. This green lacy jacket and black embroidered sash came from Bali - where it is customary to wear a sash when going to temple. Her inlaid silver cross came from the Holy Land. The gold brocade jacket came from China.

Actress Lizzie Calogero has gorgeous red boots & amazing fishnet tights. Her stylish mom is Judy Robinson. Lizzie's high heels.

Frank and Shauna Poong wear coordinating colors and patterns - they said it was just an accident.

Margaret Simpson enjoys combining brilliant colors. Her husband's discarded tie makes a perfect finishing touch!

Marci Mills and her friend Lynn, a Lutheran pastor visiting from out of state.

A Mother's Day Gift Pin made of buttons glued to the lid of a baby-food jar.

Rev. Richard (Rick) Fabian wears a Tuareg silver-and-ebony neckpiece; and architect Matthew Priest wears a collectible Gay Pride necklace strung with color anodized aluminum rings.

Bob Ruhfel, Bruce Goodchild, and Michael Moran celebrate Independence Day weekend.

Tom Benson displays his newest "Faerie" jewelry and shawl.

Singer Rita Haronian in rose-covered tights.

Dotty Schenk makes Native American style seed bead jewelry, as well as playing the organ and harp.

When we're not at church, of course, we dress in tastefully neutral Business Casual.
Photograph by Richard Anderson

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