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Pastors weigh in on whether flip-flops in church are OK
With summer temperatures, casual footwear appears in local sanctuaries
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Rising temperatures may bring out more casual footwear at local churches. - photo by SARA GUEVARA

For some churchgoers, brightly-colored flip-flops in the sanctuary on Sunday would be considered an abomination. Others may not even think twice about the flippity-flop sound of the summer sandals.

For some, it has to do with the atmosphere of the congregation.

For example, The Springs Churchcongregation in Flowery Branch worships in a more casual atmosphere where flip-flops or shorts are seen each week.

"We're very casual. People actually wear shorts and flip-flops, during the summer especially. We have people that wear sandals to church even in the winter," said the Rev. Rick Goodspeed.

Central Baptist Church is a more traditional congregation with the Rev. Earl Pirkle in the pulpit. Pirkle said he wears a suit and tie each Sunday but said he thinks church attire should be comfortable yet appropriate.

"I think he (God) wants you to look appropriate," said the preacher of 25 years. "When you go into the Old Testament and he's building the tabernacle he wanted it to look nice. ... Now the building's not as important as it is to present ourselves."

Think about your purpose for Sunday morning, too, Pirkle said.

"I guess I look at it like this - if I had a meeting with the governor, how would I dress?" he said. "On Sunday I feel like we are meeting someone a whole lot more important."

It's about the feel
Many of the churchgoers at Central Baptist are a little more traditional in their dress, but that shouldn't stop anyone from coming to the church. Pirkle added that he wants local residents to "feel comfortable" at the church, and that the congregation is trying to reach out to the midtown area.

And allowing parishioners to feel comfortable in a place of worship is ultimately what many pastors say they want, rather than recommending a particular footwear.

"I grew up very traditional; I grew up having to wear a suit and tie to church my whole life," Goodspeed said. "My heart and my attitude is there's no way that we can dress good enough just to make God happy. God isn't looking for us to be perfect in our dress. I would say God cares more about our heart.

"Some people feel like they have to get dressed up to go to church, but it's not about making other people happy. It's not about being happy with ourselves, it's about being at peace and joy with God."

Cathy Shaw, a member at Lanier Hills Church in Gainesville, said her three daughters wear flip-flops to church almost every Sunday.
"Honestly, whatever they are comfortable in makes them more comfortable at church, makes them have a better experience," Shaw said. "I don't think that clothes and attire make where your heart is."

Come as you are
Goodspeed also referenced Paul's teachings in the New Testament when it came to questions on church dress.
"In the New Testament, Paul says, ‘Don't forsake the fellowship of the believers.' So he wants us to gather together for corporate worship," he said. "My attitude is come just as you are. There's a great contemporary Christian song that goes, ‘Come just as you are.'"

And when it comes down to it, historically speaking, sandals were de rigueur for footwear, he added.

"Hey, Jesus wore sandals," said Goodspeed. "I wear jeans and a short-sleeved dress shirt to preach in. I don't wear sandals, but I'm not opposed to sandals. But I want people to feel comfortable."

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