Sunday, June 12, 2011

Churchly Character and Appearance

I was following some links in pursuit of a story and ended up on the source -- the blog of a Roman Catholic diocesan bishop.  I spent a moment or two going down the pages, looking at the pictures, and taking note of what he did.  What struck me was the very churchly character and appearance to everything I saw.  There were several meetings of clergy and the pictures showed all of the priests in clerics (introducing the new mass texts, at a conference, etc...).  It was a stark contrast to how Lutheran Pastors appear at District or Synodical meetings or events.  When I introduced LSB at workshops within 3-5 hours of Clarksville, I was the only Pastor there in clerics.  Interesting.

At seemingly every event, a mass was said and the pictures showed the whole body of congregation in prayerful and reverential posture.  The pictures showed a people gathered by intent to be the Church and they were, from all appearances, acting churchly and doing churchly things.  In contrast to that, I cannot count on how many times Synod and District meetings have had a short, perfunctory devotion (because we had to) but not much substance there.  Interesting.

The Bishop was dressed in clerics, often in cassock, and always the celebrant and preacher for the diocesan events.  In contrast to this, so many of our District Presidents look like businessmen or corporate types.  They are dressed in business formal or business casual (how many District or Synod meetings even mention this "business casual" dress code!).  Interesting.

The web sites of most Districts or "official" blogs (exception here to Colver and Harrison in Synod) do not reference churchly events but to programs (often of a distinctly unchurchly character).  They promote and sell as if the Church were a marketplace of ideas or "how tos" while this blog was descriptive -- we are the church and this is what we do.  Interesting.

Now let me make one thing perfectly clear.  My comment is on appearance and character of this and not specifically to content.  But it seems that on the blog I surveyed, the intention was to show that this was the church and the church did churchly things and the clergy of the church were clearly identified as clergy of the church.  I wonder if we have such high expectations or assumptions for most gatherings of District and Synod.  More often than not, we do not act churchly because we are not sure we are Church.  We do not act churchly because we live in rebellion against being identified as the Church.  We use our freedom to dress down instead of up and what we do has more in common with business seminars than with churchly agendas and identity.  My point is simple -- sometimes we are not taken seriously as the Church and we do not take ourselves seriously as the Church because we neither act churchly nor appear to be a churchly gathering.

I have posted before on the abysmal dress of so many folks in Church on Sunday morning (dressing this way not because they do not have nicer clothes but because they choose not to wear them).  I have complained on this post about folks carting their Starbucks or bottled water into the pews because they do not see the context of the Divine Service as a "formal" (not rigid but more solemn) assembly -- more like a casual family gathering.  I wonder if there is not some connection.  We do not act nor do we dress as the Church.  Either this is contributing to the fact that we are not taken nor do we take ourselves seriously OR this is a consequence.  Either way, it is not a good thing.  Read the Confessions.  Lutherans are a very "churchly" people -- at least on paper.  Would that it were so in ordinary practice!  When we sing "You are the church, I am the church, we are the church together... " who are we trying to convince?


Bill S. said...

I'm not sure if the difference is rebellion or shame. We Lutherans are a bit too 'catholic' to suit most Protestants, and maybe trying to de-emphasize this 'catholicity' is what's going on. After all (I'm guessing) the rest of the protestant world is dressing down; having casual services; working different programs; and look at the success they are having!

We're protestants, right? So, let's do the Protestant thing. (Of course, they forget that Lutherans were the original Protestants!)

Steve said...

Dear Pastor,
Thanks so much for your thoughts. I can't tell you how much I wish we as a church body could learn that we reveal our respect for our Lord and His service by how we dress. Our men should not dress like they just came from the fields and our women and girls should learn that thighs and cleavage should be covered (all the times but most definetely in God's house).
Thanks for listening,


Alicia said...

I agree with your column. I'm sad that we've lost our reverence in and for church, lost respect and become so casual. I think it's a reflection of our society in the U.S. as you see it in all professions......doctors, schools, etc.

Christopher Gillespie said...

Congregations learn a lot from their pastors. How the dress, yes, but also how they speak, how they conduct themselves in church, how they respect those in authority, and even how they manage their household.

Terry Maher said...

I am not for the "casual" dress that so many use. I am not for seeing people appear in public in ways they would have been ashamed to answer the door when I was younger. I am not for the Adolescence As An Adult Lifestyle that is the invention of my generation, dressing like school kids throughout adult life.

I am also completely unimpressed that appearing like RC clergy has anything to offer Lutheranism, and apparently, from the near total disarray of Catholicism these days, it doesn't offer Catholicism much either.

Anonymous said...

I'm about ready to head over to church in jeans, boots and underamour polo.

I used to wear the collar..and I came across kind of standoffish and more serious than I was.

I'm in a town where everybody knows who I am...I'm not rejecting the office, or the gospel or Jesus. I'm in a town where the dr's wear jeans to tell patients that the cancer is terminal. And where the spouse wore jeans to the funeral. I'm in a town where the sheriff is the sheriff with or without his uniform and I'm a pastor with or without the clerical.

When I wear jeans and boots during the week among my people, the gospel is as effective as when Peter and Andrew preached on Pentecost wearing fisherman's clothes, and Matthew preached in tax collector garb...and when Simon the Zealot preached in tea party drab.