Monday, October 15, 2007

What Should Clergy Wear?

There's an interesting discussion happening over on Church Leadership Conversations about "appropriate clergy fashions." It's interesting to me because the point of the conversation seems to make three-points:
  • We project an image whether we think so or not.
  • Trying to be "cool" is dumb, as "cool" changes so quickly.
  • Hiring "fashion consultants" to figure out how to project an appropriate image for a particular group is a waste of resources.
Here's where I am with appropriate dress for anyone coming to Worship:
  • If people want to wear their "Sunday Best" to worship because they believe that best honors God, I have no problem whatsoever with that . Just as long as their actions the rest of the week continue to reveal a "Sunday Best" lifestyle. If not, then let's not dress it up with "honoring God" language - "Sunday Best" clothing is nothing more than a white-washed tomb.
  • If people simply want to be slobs in terms of style and hygiene because they don't care about themselves - I do have a problem with that, but it's because those folks need to learn what's good in them as the image of God. It grieves me when seem to hate themselves - and the image it projects is gut-wrenching to me.
  • If people want to come "casual" to worship, I'm totally fine with that - just as long as they understand the Christian life is anything but casual. A life of discipleship is work, and the process of being more and more and more formed into the holy image of God in the likeness of our Lord Jesus is often painful.
So what's my dress-style? Business casual. It's about as fancy as I can get while still feeling that I'm not a complete fraud. Yet I do value being "presentable" to show that, (a) I do care enough about myself to give a rip what I look like and (b) so I'm not instantly written-off by people as a "kid." Business casual get's me "in the door," but it flexible enough that I can crawl around on the floor if I need to (this is a reality I learned working IT). It's a good thing - and if occasion warrants it I'll dress-up/down to fit the setting or occasion. No worries.

Now, if I were currently in a tradition in which the outfit of the clergy had any liturgical purpose I'd have absolutely no qualms "dressing the part" as that would be an integral part of the communication of worship. That's not where I'm currently sojourning, however, so I'm not going there at the moment.


Jamison said...

I find it interesting that you link dress with so much else in the Christian life.

For me, personally, we usually dress up just a little bit for church, mainly because it's an excuse to wear nice clothes. My wife doesn't have a job where she dresses up, so she likes to take some time to look nice for going to church. I think it's fine to try and look somewhat presentable for church, though I do agree that the excuse of "dressing up for God" is pretty lame.

As far as clergy go, you know I'm a big fan of the collar and alb :)

Melanie said...

How can dress serve a letirgical purpose? I've always assumed some of the stranger garbs were more tradition based then actually for some purpose.

Dr. Qohelet said...

Personally, I dress down for our PM (public meeting) from what I usually wear to work (which is a suit). Which reminds me, no business casual if you come visit.

wezlo said...

Mel, everything in the robes serves a liturgical purpose. Don't mistake "tradition-based" with "no purpose!" They aren't the same things!

Q, what? If I show up in business casual folks at CoH will tell me to go sit on the floor or stand in the corner? I'll have to test that one out...

Melanie said...

I'm not mistaking purpose and tradition. I've just never been anywhere where purpose was the focus of a garb. I suspected some of them had a purpose and symbolized different things, just I've never had anyone explain them too me.

An example of why I see tradition winning over purpose would be our current choir. They wear robes. Why? I haven't the foggiest other than it makes them look like a cohesive group and they've always worn them.

wezlo said...

Oh choir robes are certainly in the realm of "we've always done that." Baptists have no theological purpose for the way the folks "up front" dress - choir included (other than the fact that people always pay attention to men in dresses)...