Hey Church-Goers, You Look Sloppy in That Pew

With Easter Sunday behind us, let us turn our attention to another holy issue: the trend of dressing down while attending church is reportedly out of control among Americans. Parishioners aren’t thinking about Jesus, just which pair of flip-flops are most comfortable.

According to John Blake at CNN, people are really letting go and taking that whole “come as you are” thing too far.

“It’s like some people decided to stop mowing the lawn and then decided to come to church,” says DeBonville, rector at the Church of the Good Shepard in Massachusetts. “No one dresses up for church anymore.”

Instead of donning their Sunday Best, many are just showing up in whatever they could've worn on Saturday. Some church leaders are encouraging the trend by dressing in jeans and untucked “Banana Republic” shirts themselves to create a “seeker-friendly” atmosphere to attract souls who might not be Christians yet, but are thinking about it. If they see a pastor sharing the gospel in some track pants, I guess they might be more inclined to accept Christ?


However not everyone is into the casual Sunday’s trend.

The African-American church is one such place. Many of its members still insist on dressing up on Sunday because of the historical struggles of blacks. Sunday morning was often the only time in the week that a black person could assert their dignity, says Durley, the Atlanta civil rights activist who also is a retired Baptist pastor.

“On Sunday morning, when you put on your tie, your shirt and put your palms together and slicked down your hair, you were no longer the hired help, you were a trustee, a deacon or you chaired this board and you dressed accordingly,” Durley says.

While this is true, growing up in a black church myself I woke up every weekend for Sunday School at 9 a.m. and church at 11 a.m. without the option to dress down. That freedom only came once in a blue moon when there was some activity Sunday, like a picnic or public service, and then everyone would don jeans and t-shirts. Other than that, the airmen — my family attended church on a military base — were the only ones who had the wiggle room to wear their Air Force uniforms to church.

Each Sunday I pulled on a dress or a dressy pantsuit from a selection of classy outfits befitting a sanctified teenager sitting in a pew or singing in the choir. But when I left home and moved to New York City, I found the church of my dreams. Services start at 12 p.m., I can wear whatever I want within modest reason and I've been attending for ten years.

For example, last Sunday it was 70 degrees, which felt like 98 in contrast to the relentless winter this city is still fighting, and I briefly considered a scoop neck tank top. Then I imagined my mother’s horrified face at my exposed cleavage, put on a t-shirt and grabbed my bike to peddle to church. Clearly, I’m a true adopter of the come as you are gospel, but in some cities where public transportation is the predominant way to get around, it’s hard to justify three-inch heels, skirts and blouses on a hot subway car or bus. I usually bike or walk to church and I’m most comfortable doing so in Converse. Does that mean I love God less if I arrive in rubber soles? I don’t think so, but maybe this is all really a conversation about the old guard eschewing the new guard of church-goers and pining for the old days when Sunday style uniformly resembled the gussied-up frilly dresses of Easter? Probably so, but if I can't wear my Chucks, I'd rather not come.