I do not remember exactly when it was that I started wearing black Converse all the time (except for Sundays) but I do remember when I started making them my Sunday shoes.
In a church I served many years ago, I had a woman tell me she wanted to attend my church but did not have “nice Sunday shoes.” She would have to wear her work shoes. I assured her no one would judge her based on foot apparel. But we do judge, don’t we? Why else would seekers express trepidation to me about coming to church? One member suddenly stopped coming because she felt uncomfortable wearing her work uniform. She had finally gotten a full time job and worked third shift. She was coming straight from work and did not have the time or means to change out of khaki pants and a golf shirt with the store logo on it. I told her we were so grateful for her job and glad to have her in worship! A grandmother apologized to me one Sunday because her grandchildren did not have ‘good Sunday clothes.’ Again, I assured her that we were glad her grandchildren were there!
I understand the value of “putting on our best for God.” My Daddy shined his shoes every Saturday night and then would polish our “Sunday shoes.” My grandmother’s directive to put on our best on Sunday came from an era where most folks had one Sunday shirt or dress and everything else was work clothes. Getting ready for Sunday was a spiritual discipline in preparing food and clothing for the Sabbath. There was much preparation for the day of rest. The outward appearance was a sign pointing to what was going on inside one’s heart.
My decision to wear the same black sweater and pants most Sundays is part of my spiritual routine to help me remember that people have come to hear the Word and not to decide if I look better in bold colors or pastels. My decision to wear tennis shoes is a two-pronged decision. One, I do not believe God intended us to cram five toes into a space that is one-third the width of five toes. Second, if a visitor who is wondering if he or she has on the ‘right clothes’ for our church catches a glimpse of my tennis shoes, then hopefully there will be a sigh of relief indicating that all are welcome here regardless of the outward appearance. We are concerned with inward and spiritual things.
A few Christmases ago, I received the most romantic gift I have ever received from my precious husband. Brad knows not to buy me jewelry or fancy clothes or spa day gift certificates. That is just not me. On Christmas morning, there were four wrapped boxes – all the same size and weight (yes, I had shaken the boxes). I opened the first box: a pair of white Converse. The second box was a pair of green Converse. I thought, ‘what in the world? I only wear black.’ In the third box, was purple. And then I knew the last box would be a red pair of Chuck Taylors. My sweet husband had purchased “Sunday shoes” for me; one for each liturgical color. Green for Epiphany; purple for Advent and Lent; Pentecost is red; and, of course, white for Easter and Christmas.
Don’t worry, Grandmama Leah. I hear you. I will always wear the black pumps for funerals and weddings. I get it.
See you Sunday … I will be looking into your eyes and heart – and not at what you’ve got on!
Rev. Catherine Nance is the senior pastor at Church Street.