Wednesday, February 16, 2005

Faith Works 2-19-05
By Jeff Gill

"What Not To Wear"

So, you’ve been inspired by Lent or frightened by a falling tree limb from the ice storm, and you’ve decided to go to a place of worship this weekend.
What do you wear?
Not so long ago, this was a fairly simple issue. "Sunday go to meeting" clothes were what you called your good suit or nicest dress through much of American history, from New England Puritans in the 1600’s to Californian Catholics in 1960’s, and most groups large and small in between.
Then John Kennedy didn’t wear a hat to his inauguration, and with a whoosh, standards for special occasions swirled within society. Jimmy Carter wore a sweater for a presidential address, pants suits became the norm, not an exception, for women in many situations, and people on planes went from ties and pearls to tie-dye Pearl Jam t-shirts with sandals.
So what do you wear to church?
The standard answer for and from many has been "wear your best for God." Complicating that stock response is that what hangs in many closets as "the best" ain’t what it used to be (like my grammar), and what looks like grunge to one may be the best for another. You can have in one pew a sharp suit, polished shoes, and a tie seated next to a clean white t-shirt under a worn mud streaked denim jacket, and both are wearing their best.
Most complicated is the new vocabulary of workplace dress that makes "casual Friday" strike fear into the hearts of many. Is this too grubby? Do I look so formal people think I’m making a point? There are many points on a continuum that for many used to be a two or three point line: good clothes, work clothes, leisure clothes.
Now we have business casual, leisure formal ("no short shorts or collarless shirts, please"), and more categories each day as we have more clothes to categorize.
But what to wear to church?
The simple answer is: it depends. Many congregations in Licking County have contemporary and traditional services (now there’s a column!), which tends to tell you that ties and dresses are the norm at traditional, but are likely to stand out in the contemporary format. Many pastors at evangelical churches wear a kind of tieless look under a jacket that says "we’re not business stuffy, but we honor God," while a more liturgical church with robes and stoles and vestments tend to support a more formal look among the worshipers.
Ideally, any place of worship will accept a newcomer however they’re dressed, and most do. Some talk about "people looked at me funny," but that can be as much an internal unease as something really being communicated – after all, some folks just look that way all the time.
Places where a higher truth and deeper reality is affirmed should be able to look past the outer appearance, and building community can start with welcoming openly and honestly those who, well, choose to wear a dress to the contemporary service, as well as the sweat suit wearing person sitting next to them.
But every faith community has it’s own internal norm of dress, which may vary a little for those active in the service, but is fairly standard across the congregation.
Which is another reason why first time visitors tend to arrive late and leave early. They’re checking out what to wear if they want to come back.

Jeff Gill is a writer, storyteller, and supply preacher around central Ohio. His tie rack gets less of a workout than it once did; if you have a story of "what not to wear" in worship, e-mail

Tuesday, February 15, 2005

Notes From My Knapsack 2-20-05
By Jeff Gill

"Conservation Hearts and Dollar George"

The Little Guy is a bit sad over the end of Valentine’s season; no promises of cherry pie for Washington’s Birthday can assuage his grief.
(Cranky columnist note: President’s Day implies that we are celebrating James Buchanan and Millard Fillmore, which I will not be on the morrow. I trust you solemnly honored Lincoln’s Birthday last weekend in the manner you find fit, but this one, Monday-ed holiday or Feb. 22, is about the Man, George Himself. End of small tantrum.)
The feast of Saint Valentinus was a real festival in the Little Guy’s life, as he enjoyed getting cards made for Mom, and carefully reading his heart-shaped hard candy from the New England Confectionary Company (you knew that was what NECCO stood for, right?).
It is probably a sign of the kind of conversation our first grader overhears around the house that they were, irreversibly, "Conservation Hearts." Even after he got the mistake, his evil genius then saw the pleasure of insisting on the new label.
Which got the Lovely Wife and me to thinking. What would "Conservation Hearts" say on them?
"Be Green."
"Turn Down the Heat."
"Light a Candle."
"Recycle Now."
"Shall We Hike?"
"Composting Is Fun."
Or, my energy-conscious favorite, "Let’s Shower Together."
NECCO, there’s a market here…

I can’t say that Presidents are far from the LG’s mind, since his presidential place mat has him as charmingly tedious about the names and numbers of our parade of POTUS’s as he was about state capitals when the dinner time mat was a map of the US.
An intriguing confusion came up when he saw a $20.
"That’s not James Garfield," stated the LG.
"No, that’s right," answered the LW, puzzled. Now, since Daddy has spoken of Garfield with approval before (only ordained minister to be president, Civil War vet, progressive Republican, died tragically), it wasn’t unheard of to hear about Garfield in the house, but why now?
Long quizzicality finally produced an answer. George Washington is on the One Dollar Bill, Lincoln a little further along, so the $20 should have POTUS #20, i.e. Garfield.
We thought this was clarified, but then he saw a $50 on the counter (no, this isn’t a common event here, as that’s more than my allowance, let alone LG’s).
He picked it up, looked at it, and laid it down dismissively.
"There haven’t even been 50 presidents."
Grant never did get any respect.

A quick closing note: tomorrow, Monday, Feb. 21, the Village of Hebron has a blood drive in the municipal complex from 1:00 to 6:00 pm. The American Red Cross in central Ohio, and just about everywhere else, really needs donors. If you think because you’ve been turned down twelve years ago you still can’t give, it might be worth stopping by and checking.
The restrictions based on where you’ve traveled, or surgery, or medications have all changed greatly in recent years. There still are some, but many have been eliminated due to improved testing technology.
So go open a vein! They have great cookies for after, too.

Jeff Gill is a writer, storyteller, and supply preacher around central Ohio. If you have close encounters with presidential history or news to share, e-mail him at