I’ve been noticing how tradition/ritual can be a barrier to entry.
For example, at one church, you cannot serve at the communion table unless you wear pantyhose/socks and closed-toe shoes. Do we really think Jesus wore crew socks and enclosed shoes? During services, a former pastor at St. Mark Lutheran wore Birkenstocks on her otherwise bare feet. Apparently, she would not be welcome to serve communion with her Episcopal peers. I’m not trying to pick on a particular denomination – I identify as a Celtic Christian, and that tradition is strongly supported by the Anglican Communion. My point is, the state of one’s feet should not be a condition of participation, and traditions such as these are not only socially irrelevent, but they keep people away.
It’s not that I don’t appreciate the elegance of formality. My grandfather wore slacks, a dress shirt and fedora every time he left the house, even to go for a walk around the neighborhood. I would love to see a return to men wearing hats and women donning gloves. But our relationship with God, either in a private or public setting, should be different. Romans 10:15 does NOT say ‘how beautiful are the well-heeled feet who bring good news.’ Jesus didn’t focus on external trappings; to the contrary, he had pointed remarks for those who did.
If our mission is to spread the good news to all, shouldn’t we should welcome people in their place of comfort, rather than ask them to conform to our own? I freely admit, I’m talking out of my own calling. Ever more strongly, I feel compelled to reach out to people and make them feel welcome as my sisters and brothers where they live, not where the church lives; to bring the holy out of buildings and into the streets.