One night I had a dream I was in church, and there were all these older people there, dressed up: women in skirts and suits, with ruffled shirts peaking through. The old kind of ruffles. Panty hose and sensible shoes with small chunky heels. The shoes often match. The colors were things like red and purple. Some wore hats. Men in suits and ties.
And then there were these other people there, younger people, dressed in their normal clothes; street clothes. Urban clothes. Perhaps some would say “hipster” clothes. And one more thing. All of them had clothing that had some kind of hole in it, exposing some part of the body that is not normally exposed.
And they were standing around this church, not flaunting who they were. Not actively trying to resist an older generation. And not hiding. They all looked slightly sheepish but with a sort of stance like, “This is who I am. I don’t know how to be anything else.” And the two kinds of people did not talk. It seems to me the older folks in their dated Sunday Best stood in twos or threes, glancing briefly around them—trying not to be obvious, at the individuals who stood there being who they were. Looking down at the bulletin. Trying to act like it wasn’t weird that they were there.
And I stood right in the middle, between the two groups of people, trying to explain to the one about the other. Trying to explain both.
That’s all I remember of the dream. It happened a few months ago. I have been told that there are those in the church I work in who are offended if someone comes to church in jeans, especially if they are helping out in worship in some way. Now, each time I see someone walk forward to read from the pulpit in jeans, I say a silent cheer.
Each week during Lent, (the season of the church year we’re now in) a confirmation kid has read
And the thing is there aren’t very many people who wear polyester skirt suits at the church I serve either. No one has said anything to me about the kids in holy (pun intended) jeans. The kids all report that they feel very welcome there. So both things were extreme caricatures that serve some teaching purpose in my dream. the lesson during a Wednesday night service. They’re generally ages 11 to 14. And two of those weeks I’ve noted not just jeans, but jeans with holes in them. Sometimes really short. Not quite as explicit of holes as my dream, but certainly a long way from purple and red polyester skirt suits.
So the reality is that at least in my context, lots of people experience a place where they can be who they are. But, the reality of the dream is that there is still often a divide in Church along these lines. We often don’t see it because that younger group just isn’t there.
I want to say to each dream group—those anxious about whether they fit in to church, and those who feel as if church is their home and they need to guard it from some kind of irreverence: “Be still and know that I am God.” To those who feel out of place, be still. Be. To those who would judge others, be still. Be. To both, know that God is God. God is who God is. You can be who you are, and who God made you to be.