What are you wearing?
To church, I mean (is your mind that far in the gutter?). We Episcopalians have a quirky dress code for Sunday worship, and I’m curious how people feel about it.
I grew up in a huge parish that had a half-dozen services over the weekend, with hundreds of people. Some people dressed very nicely – the “Sunday best” as we called it. Others came in jeans and t-shirts. I guess the choice of attire all depended on your accustomed level of fashion, running late, laundry day, going to an event immediately afterwards, or any number of other factors.
As a teenager, I felt self-conscious no matter what I wore! In my more rebellious years I deliberately wore the worst possible things in order to underscore my budding reputation as a church rebel. We all know where *that* got me! At some point however, attending worship services became important – at least in my head and heart, if not in my wardrobe. I’d become used to going casual, and although my jeans no longer had holes in the knees, I’d settled into the counter-cultural look. No one seemed to take notice anyways, so there was no impetus to change that behaviour. Until…
It was my first Sunday morning in an Episcopal Church. I was excited to visit a new place and decided to try to make a good first impression. I put on the best clothes I had. Now, to be fair I was a poor grad student in theatre. Just about everything I owned had a spot of paint on it somewhere. On this day, Sunday morning was opening night for me. And like any big production, I was more suited to backstage than on stage. *sigh*
But as it turns out, our quirky little denomination could speak it’s own fashion language. Somewhere between Rite One and Rite Two, between the 17th and 21st centuries, tucked in the gaps between England, America, Asia, Africa, and points beyond, we’ve settled into our own counter-cultural look. In the years since I’ve been part of TEC, I’ve seen plenty of Sunday bests.
I’ve served churches where people wore their work uniforms because they were either on their way to, or just coming from shift change. Some wore the same thing every Sunday because that’s all they had. I couldn’t afford the accessories, much less the whole outfit, of folks in other places. I saw pictures of worship services at Native American reservation parishes, and I fell in love. I’ve seen all sorts of ways cultures incorporate our way of worshiping in their own ways of being.
So now, I stand before my congregation each week wearing a thoroughly outdated 5th century costume of alb and chasuble. Anachronistic? Peculiar? You betcha. Will it ever make the runway in Paris or Milan? Unlikely. But somehow it’s a perfect match with Hello Kitty, sandals, silk ties and polo shirts. And I wouldn’t have it any other way.
What do you think?