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Ties or T-shirts? - Odessa American: Religion

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Ties or T-shirts?

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Posted: Saturday, August 4, 2007 12:00 am

Sunday’s best once hanged in the closet, cleaned and pressed, ready to be worn with pride.

Suits and neckties, flowery dresses topped with elegant church hats, and bonnets for the little ones adorned churchgoers passing the steeple — Bible in hand — hymns playing from an old piano.

While Sunday’s formal garb was customary and somewhat expected in the past, a visit to most churches today reveals a dress code slightly altered from the Mayberry vision of wearing one’s “Sunday best.”

And there are contrasting views on the change.

“I think there’s just a feel in churches now to come as you are. Churches are sending the signal that we just want you, so what you’re wearing is just not as important as you being there,” the Rev. Terry Tamplen, pastor of First United Methodist Church, said.

A variety of styles and attire fills the pews in the church, Tamplen said — from the formal suit and tie to polo shirt and casual pants — or even blue jeans.

“It’s really generational more than anything. Some of our senior adults and older people seem to dress up more for church, but as the generations get younger, there’s more casual dress,” he said.

“I’m not advocating sloppiness, but I think your heart attitude is the most important thing,” he said. “I would hope that people come and that they prepare mentally for experiencing God through the gathered community of faith.”

The Rev. Jon Harrington, pastor of St. Stephen’s Charismatic Episcopal Church, said he has noticed the changing clothing trend in today’s churches.

Dressing down indicates a culturewide shift and relaxed perspective — an attitude Harrington said can minimize the importance and reverence of church.

“I think we’re very lax in regards to who we’re standing before and where we are,” he said. “When you go to church, you need to dress appropriately for the occasion.”

The apparel standard at his own church lies pretty high, he said. “If 10 being a suit and tie, and one being a swimsuit, I’d say we’re an eight.”

Without an official, enforced dress code, Harrington said the church uses subtle teaching to promote dressing nice, without purposefully embarrassing anyone.

“We just love them as they are and then begin to teach people to understand. Wherever you go, you have to understand the dress code of the area,” he said. “It doesn’t matter what you wear, as long as it’s your best.”

The Rev. David Miller of Crescent Park Baptist Church said he dresses the way he does out of personal conviction, though he loosens up at times.

“I wear a suit on Sunday morning — it’s out of respect and honor for the position, but on Sunday nights I may not wear a sport coat or a tie,” he said. “Society has become a little more casual in some ways.”

With a blended mix in his church, Miller said clothing isn’t really an issue as much as a personal preference.

“Dress is not as important today as it was in the past,” he said. “I think people have an understanding that the Lord really looks at someone’s heart instead of what they wear.”

Odessa, TX

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