Street scene from New York Fashion Week, courtesy of Cordelia Persen.

Last week was New York’s fashion week, which always brings me joy, but is particularly elating since this means the COVID hiatus is over.  Looking at the photos from the streets made my heart sing.

And Fashion Week reminded me of that time in CPE (clinical pastoral education) when our group leader asked us if any of us had positive experiences with feeling powerful.

Power.  Always a loaded concept. 

I raised my hand, but no one else in the group did. No one person had a positive interaction with power.  So, of course, our facilitator wanted me to share what my experiences had been. And I summed it up in one work: CATWALK.

The feeling that you get, when you walk the fashion runway… when you do the catwalk, is powerful.  I even joked that on days I was feeling down or insecure, I would pretend the long hallway in the hospital was a runway, and I would catwalk down it until I felt my power return.  By the end of the discussion, everyone in my CPE group was learning to catwalk.

Power is a loaded concept.  And I believe that much of the reason why no one could name a good experience with feeling power is because most people associate power with domination.  Power becomes power over, and that never feels good.  In a “power over” system you are either exerting power over someone, or having it exerted over you.  In this system, of course no one has a good experience because you are either being dominated or doing the domination. And so no one could think of a time when powerful felt positive.

But this is the beauty of the catwalk.  Because the catwalk channels a different kind of power.  It is about the power within. And unleashing the power within onto the world. It is about summoning up all the beauty, fierceness, inner strength, and yes power, that God has put within you and showing it without holding anything back.  There is no domination in the power of the catwalk, only the glamour that comes with the fullness of being.  There is divinity in the power within.

The message of Jesus is ultimately a message about working to eradicate the power over paradigm of this world and replace it with a paradigm of power within. And the work of the church is to continue to do the same.  That is a combination of working for justice in situations where the power over oppresses and exploits, and also to help people to experience the power within and tap into their inherent divinity.

And the church has not always succeeded in doing that. 

If you want to explore more about the devastating effects of the power over paradigm, considering listening to THIS PODCAST on the rise and fall of a power over church.

If you want to experience the power of fashion… the power within… then I highly recommend checking out these AFGHAN WOMEN, and how they are using fashion to unleash their own power.

And if you want to experience your own power within, I highly recommend putting on some music like THIS and practicing your own catwalk in your office or living room.

Experience a positive moment of power… the divine power within.


Rev. Cathy M. Kolwey is a writer, artist, and pastor who has been working at the intersection of spirituality and the arts for over 20 years. She is currently the associate pastor of spiritual formation at Colonial Church of Edina in MN. She also blogs at


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2 thoughts on “THE PASTOR IS POLITICAL: Fashion is Power. Power Is Political.

  1. I love this! When I took a break from pastoral ministry and reactivated my law license, I would wear heels. Walking in the courthouse in heels gave that sense of inner power and a reminder that I could do the job. I continued to wear them when I went back to pastor another church. Thank you!

    Liked by 1 person

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