Dressing fashionably for Easter Sunday is traditional, not theological – Baltimore Sun

Since the days of the early Christians, Easter Sunday fancy dress has been a cosmetic commemoration of the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Now, worshipers are rocking social media-worthy outfits like ruffles, lace, head-turning hats, classy suits and dresses, and color-coordinated looks for the whole family.

While weekly church fashion varies by place of worship, Easter sets are historically rooted in centuries of customs and norms, not theology or religious tenets.

Two churches in Baltimore, Rehoboth Ministries Church of God in Christ and Central Christian Assemblyhave very different approaches to Sunday style, but according to spiritual leaders, dressing for church, in general, is a matter of cultural expectations.

“My best friend and I often tease each other because our church culture is so different. We serve the same God, believe in the same doctrine, but she wears jeans on Sundays and I wear a sequin dress – not really, but somehow,” said Kimberli Thomas, children’s ministry director at Rehoboth Ministries

Bishop William E. McMillan Jr., founder and senior pastor of Rehoboth Ministries, said he leads by example in the way he dresses for church every Sunday.

“I believe God’s people should be at their best when they go to worship. However, our mode should not be to attract attention or make us lose sight of our primary purpose, which is to share the love of Jesus Christ,” said Bishop McMillan, who is often photographed on social media in bespoke three-piece suits or traditional bishops’ attire, such as a purple clerical shirt and collar.

For Thomas, who is the daughter of Bishop McMillan, dressing for Sunday service is steeped in family traditions as well as African American heritage.

“As early as I can remember, church clothes were a thing. Whenever my parents or my grandmother took me shopping, we would buy play clothes, school clothes or church clothes,” Thomas said.

“We honored Sunday and gave to God our best. For the black church, that includes our dress,” she added.

To Central Christian Assemblythe philosophy behind the style of worship has changed over the past 10 years to a “come as you are” approach, according to the church’s next generation pastor, Jonathan Prothero, who often opts for jeans and sneakers .

“It’s just about making sure that we don’t create more barriers to entry than necessary – that people feel good about themselves,” said Prothero, who works in church communications. and with devotees aged 13 to 30. “It might seem really superficial to start with an aesthetic like the clothes, but it’s actually a first step, and we’ve found it relaxes people a lot, when they can walk in, wearing what they would usually wear.

Even with different approaches to Sunday style, there are common fashion rules in both churches.

“Nothing too revealing, nothing too distracting, but [clothing guidelines are] pretty loose in terms of rigor,” Prothero said.

“Nothing is too tight, too high, too low, too loose, etc.,” Thomas said. “Church fashion looks good for Jesus with a touch of your personal style.”

Historically speaking, “Easter” was a pagan holiday to celebrate the start of spring, but Christians adapted the celebration to commemorate the resurrection of Christ, and soon after, rules about dress came into play.

“Dressing up for Easter is a tradition that really dates back to medieval times,” McMillan said. “Christians in medieval times began to wear new, clean clothes on Easter Sunday to symbolize the resurrection of Jesus Christ and the new life of believers. In 300 AD, Roman Emperor Constantine declared that his court would wear its finest and newest clothes on Easter Sunday.

Coming from “humble beginnings” as one of six children, McMillan said he didn’t have the fanciest Easter clothes growing up. Nonetheless, he has instilled an appreciation for Easter ensembles in his children and enjoys seeing his family and congregation dress up in their Sunday best..

“I am the daughter of the most religious bishop in the history of the Church of God in Christ,” Thomas joked of McMillan. “As a child, I looked forward to Easter shopping. That meant going to a fancy store, buying a shoe with a small heel, lace stockings and gloves.

“Easter for the black church is what Christmas is for the world,” Thomas pointed out.

Easter even brings out some traditional church looks for members of the Christian Central Assembly.

“You’ll see people come in shorts and t-shirts, if the weather’s nice, and you’ll see people come in more formal attire: button-up shirts, tucked-in pants, full suits,” Prothero said of the outfits that it expects to fill. Central Christian on Easter Sunday.

“People can sometimes be judgmental when they see someone they think should dress up a little more, or they see a pastor wearing a cap on stage,” Prothero said. “For some people it crosses a line of ‘where does relevance end and reverence begin?'”

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Dorothy Cunningham, 33, said for Easter her twins Dominique and Da’yonne will be wearing cropped linen sets, one white and one sky blue, with three-button polo shirts and new white Adidas. “They didn’t want to wear costumes this year. Their sister, J’Lynn, will wear a “puffy pink tutu dress and white patent hard bottom shoes.”

“I like to do things I couldn’t do as a kid, dress up, go to church, do Easter egg hunts or even something simple like a basket of eggs Easter. It was not planned for me and my four siblings. My mom was incarcerated, so we were pushed from family to family in East Baltimore,” Cunningham said.

“Looking around as a girl, watching other children playing, all dressed up in new shoes, I felt like I was robbed of a happy Easter Sunday… For my children, I love seeing them happy in their Sunday best, smiling in the mirror, and saying to myself, ‘Mom, I’m beautiful!’ Then they patted me on the shoulder and said, ‘Mum, you did well,'” Cunningham, of Easterwood, said.

Despite cultural opinions, there is no theological basis for how one should dress to worship on Easter. All should be welcome to worship, regardless of dress, church leaders stressed.

“There is no theology about dressing up for Easter. The scriptures basically tell us that we should be clean and proper when we enter the house. If there is someone who is not blessed with clean, new or dressed clothes, the church should receive them without any discrimination,” McMillan said.

Prothero also stated that there was no scriptural basis for clothing choices and that it was for personal comfort in worship.

“It’s not like Paul in the New Testament saying, ‘You shall wear a red suit and tie,'” Prothero said. “We just want you to feel like you’re welcome. That, to us, is so much more important than what you wear.

Alicia R. Rucker