Since my childhood in the 1970s and 1980s, formalities have decreased in each arena of society.
It’s not news that most of our churches reflect this growing sense of casualness.
In most of our churches, there is a growing acceptance of casual clothes as the norm. More people wear jeans and shorts in churches. And in the summer, some mainline Protestant clergy hang up their robes and preach in something more casual.
Even the way that we act in church has become more informal.
As a child, I remember the solemn nature entering the sanctuary. We would quietly pray immediately after taking our seats. Now, people immediately turn to their neighbors to catch up on what happened during the week once they enter the church. Sometimes, people enter sanctuaries sipping on a cup of coffee, soda or bottled juice.
Some Christians are concerned over this growing informality. Occasionally, I hear criticisms of the casual outfits some choose or the high levels of energy exuded by those entering churches.
But with mainline Protestant church attendance declining, is this the time to be critical of what others wear and how laid-back they act in church?
Many of us are not necessarily endorsing an “anything goes” approach. But encouraging a “come as you are” mindset does not mean we take our faith, church and the Sabbath any less seriously. This doesn’t mean we respect God any less.
By affirming this more informal attitude of those in our pews, we support authenticity in sanctuaries and throughout every area of church life.
And to those who disagree with the “come as you are” approach, it’s important to be aware that if we don’t accept people as they are, they will find churches that do. Or they will stop attending church altogether, adopting a belief that God doesn’t accept a laid-back attitude.
Just because we may seem more informal does not mean we take our relationship with God less seriously. It means we give permission for people to be comfortable and genuine as they worship God.
Instead of shutting out people for being their authentic selves, let us embrace each and every sister and brother in the faith – whether they wear holy holey jeans, shorts, sundresses, athletic wear, pajamas, hats, gloves, piercings or tattoos.
Rev. Michelle L. Torigian is the pastor of St. Paul United Church of Christ, Old Blue Rock Road in Cincinnati, Ohio. Prior to ministry, Torigian worked in fundraising and marketing for nonprofits as her previous career. She graduated from Eden Theological Seminary in 2010. Torigian is the author of a number of articles on the Huffington Post Religion page including “Between Childless and Childfree,” a reflection for Mother’s Day. Recently, her essay “Always the Pastor, Never the Bride” was published in the book “There’s a Woman in the Pulpit” (Skylight Paths Publishing, 2015). Torigian regularly posts her musings on current events, justice issues, pop culture, and theology at www.michelletorigian.com.