Many years ago, most people used to dress in their best clothes when attending church services on Sundays. In many modern churches, this practice has stopped, and indeed, it seems that many people ‘dress down’ when going to church, wearing jeans, tee-shirt, trainers etc. The song ‘Put on Your Sunday Clothes’ from the musical Hello, Dolly! must have become meaningless to most modern churchgoers.
And it’s not just the folk in the pews. I’ve read about several well-known leaders of churches in different parts of the world who also dress down for Sunday services. Strangely enough, it’s been pointed out to me that these same people, when attending formal, secular events (for example, in the presence of high-ranking politicians) will wear suit and tie. Many years ago when this trend was becoming noticeable, an old saint told me that he wondered whether everyone would turn up in old jeans and trainers if the Queen were visiting the church that morning. It’s an interesting point and one which has caused me to think over the years.
In the Old Testament, God gives quite specific instructions as to how he is to be approached, the priests to be washed clean and wearing clean linen etc. Is there a principle here which should still apply? Or does the New Covenant do away with such things? Is it the case now (as I’m often told) that it doesn’t matter how we approach God physically; it’s only the attitude of our heart which matters?
I must admit, I’m very old fashioned and still wear smart clothes to church. And strangely enough, this can be an opportunity to witness. Only a couple of weeks ago, I had reason to call on someone briefly on my way to church on a purely ‘secular’ matter. He said ‘you’re looking very smart… are you on your way to church?’ Just this chance remark caused me to wonder. Many people heading towards church on a Sunday these days could just as easily be heading to the local pub or the supermarket. If we don’t believe we should get dressed up to go to church, might this alone be a good reason to dress smartly – i.e., an opportunity to witness?
I should say that in airing the wanderings of my ageing mind, I mean no offence to anyone and no criticism of the way other people choose to dress. But is there a point worthy of discussion here? Or am I just an old fossil stuck in a time-warp?