On the way back from the Gardens on Sunday I popped into the lovely St Anne church on Kew Green for the last half hour of service. This is a very successful high Anglican church in a very prosperous area. It has a choir of twenty. When Kew Palace was in favour ,the church, which was built in 1714, was much used by the Royals. George III in his madness was banished to Kew. The royal servants along with the Kew Garden Directors dominate the church yard. The walls are smeared in Imperial blood, a captain cut down by a Fenian mob, the advocate general of Bengal and the lonely lieutenant who never grew old and closed his eyes in the Punjab. But of course the most famous corpse buried in that church is that of Gainsborough the artist.
While sitting there contemplat ing the here and now, the hereafter and our worthless place I was struck by the wide variety of dress codes. While some, mainly older still dress up to go to church others don’t. I was, the faithful pilgrim that I am, in shorts and sandals.
Now the older group may well, also dress up to go to the shops, they see a strict dress code as part of their identity. But the obviously young banker class, were the ones that interested me. Sleek and well groomed. (My chin is smooth,my hair is sleek; I dine at the Ivy once a week.)Monogrammed shirts, well cut blazers, expensive jeans and loafers(no socks) with tassels. Going to church is therefore an extension of dress down Friday.
When there is a client you have to respect or fear ,you dress smart in your £1k Saville Road number, but God is obviously not some one you are out to impress. The new God we worship does not care how we look, he is inclusive, he is our mate, he takes us as we come. He doesn’t even mind if we don’t really believe, how cool is that?. As it happens the Gospel message(from Luke) that day was, “None of you can become my disciple if you do not give up all your possessions. ”OK if that’s the deal I won’t be your disciple, just a fellow traveller.
But thing change, after all in living memory the Roman Catholic church(to stop hanky panky) used to insist that women covered their shoulders and the heads in church. Now the bachelors in Rome have decided that maybe God doesn’t worry too much about such things.
But of course the Roman church is not the only one to change its mind about what can or can’t be done in God’s house. The CofE at the beginning of the 20th century was opposed to homosexuality and for fox hunting. By the end of the century it has changed its mind on both subjects. No wonder its difficult to know what to wear for Jesus.