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The spot for the good news, the good word, the quick reports of the many, many wonderful news items I hear all the time and want to share with the rest of you. Expect to find the good news when you come to check out "what’s the good word?"

Wednesday, September 9, 2009


This tiny little word can create all kinds of repurcussions. If you read any of the Blogs we follow, you may have noticed a little conversation between a self-confessed "hippy type" and a UU pastor.

Visitor commented on how all the men in the congregation, especially those in actual "positions" -- greeter, reader, receiver of offering -- were wearing ties. (I'm thinking they probably had the whole getup that goes with a tie.)

Pastor expressed some satisfaction that folks in her congregation usually tended to "spiff themselves up" for church.

But the visitor noted he had to adjust his hippy assumptions and remind himself that, despite their suited uniforms, those men did indeed "have good hearts underneath those ties."

Now this felt a bit like a reversal. Most of the popular stories we tell each other in church have the "properly dressed" folks in the pews being reminded that the scruffy visitor is also a child of God and we need to be accepting of them.

With Mission conference coming up, I am aware of certain mission officials who will be discussing just how "up" they will dress. Never having worn a tie myself I'm not so directly involved. But I have been in a place where I've had to make decisions about suitable apparel for a minister, or for an occasion.

I recall hearing years after the fact just what an uproar was caused when I wore a YELLOW dress for one of my first sermons. Actually I chose it because it was the only skirt I owned that had pockets for my notes! It never occured to me that my nice cheery dress would offend.

How are things in your congregation? Do you wear a tie for church? (Or its "spiffed up" equivalent, if you are female?)

What is acceptable as to formality or informality of dress? What are the conversations in the side rooms when someone is improperly dressed, according to the congregation's convention?

And do those conversations come back to the quality of the heart underneath the tie?


  1. Well Jan gets out of wearing a tie any time he can. Hates them. I usually dress up a bit. Some in my congregation go the suit and tie route. Some get very "dressed up". I don't think anyone gets too bent out of shape over that topic any more. Haven't heard anything! Now maybe if I wore torn jeans and and a rumpled blouse that might raise eyebrows. Frankly we're just happy people come out. :>)

  2. I was told as a young minister when I went to the front of the church to share a sermon, wearing a black suit but a coloured shirt that unless I changed my ways I would surely go to Hell. As an educator for years I wore a tie in class but then as i started coaching sports teams the tie got in the way and eventually I stopped wearing a tie. The discussion went that students would have less respect for me. I suggested that if all it took to get respect was weating a tie I would surely do it, but I hoped that the respect was based on who I was and what and how I taught and interacted with students that brought respect.
    Just a few thoughts to ponder.

  3. This conversation really didn't go very far. Am I to believe that "dress for church" is a total NON-issue?

    You will excuse me if I say I really don't believe it!

    Is there anyone with something else to say on the matter? Or should I just go quietly away and never give a thought any more to what I wear to your congregations?

  4. At our congregation, we encourage casual dress. Coming as you are. Pajamas was one outfit specifically mentioned that would help to make people feel more comfortable at church. Not sure what others would think of my flannel penguin pajamas from the pulpit, but that's where we're trying to head: getting away from the outfits, rules, expectations and regulations, and focusing on the ideas and the actions that follow those ideas.

  5. But Erin, if someone shows up in a suit and tie, will you be able to focus on their "good heart"?
    I hope so.

  6. Years ago Roy Cheville shared some sound advice on this subject with us. His theory was that ministers should never stand out because of their dress, they should blend in.

    So, in my mind, that means that ideally the minister should not be either dressed more formally or dressed more casually than the members of the congregation/community they're ministering in.

    So then the question becomes -- who is it that we want to be ministering to? If we want to be ministering to people that have been "churched" for 50 years and feel comfortable in suits, then wear a suit. If we want to be ministering to the "unchurched", to me that means wear blue jeans and a casual shirt.

    At the fastest growing church in America - Saddleback - which grew from 0 to average weekend attendance of about 28,000 in the past 20 years -- all ministers wear blue jeans and casual shirts.

    So, I'm with Erin. I'm fine with her wearing flannel penguin pajamas in the pulpit. I'll be right beside you in my blue jeans.

  7. Seems I'm a bit late responding and many may not read this, but I reflect on the story read and have heard used a few times in sermons...have used it myself once, about the college chap who walked to the front of the church in his tattered outfit, sat on the floor. When an elderly church official walked slowly with his cane to the front of the church, everyone sort of held their breath, thinking the young chap was going to be asked to leave....not so, the elderly gentleman sat down on the floor beside him, the minister said to the congregation, "you'll not likely remember my sermon today, but you won't forget the sermon you just witnessed.

    Did Christ dress up better than those he brought Ministry to? I don't think so, he dressed in the style of the people of the day. It is what is in our hearts, not what we wear that brings ministry to others. Not sure i would feel comfortable in PJ's though, but I don't think I overkill, usually wear dress slacks and top.

  8. Thanks for your comment. I read it and it will show up in the sidebar on the main page.

    You're never too late to contribute. Welcome to the conversation.

  9. For me it does not matter what a person wears while giving puplic ministry unless it is so far removed from those in attendance as to "distract" from their ministry. As much as I may try to ignore someone with a rock band picture on their T-shirt while sharing from the "front" I cannot. Penquin PJ's may be ok on the other hand depending on how "loud" they are I may find them distracting. I agree with the comment from Roy Cheville, try to blend with your audiance so the message one has to share gets through.


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