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What do ministers think of worshipers in shorts?
Oak Park's many houses of worship often reflect the village's rich heritage of beautiful, gracefully aging architecture. And with the historicâ€"even sometimes somberâ€"character of those buildings it's easy to conjure images of little boys dressed up in suits, mothers in dresses and dads in jackets and ties walking to Sunday services.

But today, inside many of even the village's most stoic churches are worshipers in jeans, t-shirts, and yes, even, shorts.

But, when they gaze from the pulpit at their congregation, do local ministers pine for the days when churchgoers donned more dapper attire?

"Sometimes I miss the old days," said Dr. Ray Pritchard, pastor at Calvary Memorial Church, 931 Lake St., for 15 years. He adds that when he tells children at church that they used to have to dress up, most don't even believe him. "Mostly I'm just glad they came out to church."

Rev. Larry McNally, pastor of Ascension Church, 815 S. East Ave.,  for a year and a half, said sometimes members of his congregation tell him that he should encourage people to dress up a little more for church. But, he said the only thing he would prefer is to throw out anyone who comes to church in a Cubs shirt (yes, the avid Sox fan is only kidding.)

"It doesn't bother me at all. People have challenged me to say something, but my response is that I'm happy they're in church, and that's the bottom line," he said, adding that shorts are fine with him, too, considering that Ascension doesn't have air conditioning.

Mia Gale, office manager at Calvary, meanwhile noted that "We have a lot of teenagers, and their parents aren't too crazy when their girls wear bare midriff stuff."

Rev. Harry Parker, pastor of First Baptist Church, said, "I guess my primary concern is if they're here, I'm delighted. Only secondarily am I concerned about how people are dressed. Things have gotten a lot more casual over the years, probably a reflection of our time and the workplace. I suppose there's a part of me that's old-school enough that I like to get dressed up for church, but I really do feel that my primary interest is if people are there to worship. If they're there to worship, I'm much more pleased about that than I am about how they're dressed.

"In some of the churches that are growing the fastest, it's not just the congregations that are dressing informally, it's the pastors too. You'll see pastors pr-eaching without pulpit, not wearing a suit and tie, certainly not wearing robes. They'll be very casual, very conversational in their preachingâ€"sometimes not even preaching on the chancel, the stage area, but among the people. There certainly has been a shift, not only in the pew but also in the pulpit."

Susan Rippert, pastor at Good Shepherd Lutheran Church, 611 Randolph St.,  for four years, said seeing people take the time to go to church is a good thing, even if they come in more casual clothes.

"I just see that as proof that coming to worship on Sunday is important," she said. "It's not what you're wearing that matters. It's coming there on a spiritual journey; it's where your heart is."

Rippert said there is even a member of her congregation who's a soccer referee and comes to church in his uniform, and that's just fine. She said, in fact, that those who come to services in a shirt and tie are often those who rarely come.

Overall, she said she looks positively on the shift in dress, saying that, "maybe we've been doing church too seriously in the past."


PADS sites which are currently up and running:
Sundayâ€"Euclid Avenue United Methodist,
405 S. Euclid Ave.

Mondayâ€"First United, 848 Lake St.

Tuesdayâ€"St. Edmund, 188 S. Oak Park Ave.

Wednesdayâ€"Oak Park Temple, 1235 N. Harlem Ave.

Thursdayâ€"First United Methodist, 324 N. Oak Park Ave.

Fridayâ€"St. John Lutheran, 305 Circle Ave., Forest Park

Saturdayâ€"St. Mary of Celle, 1428 S. Wesley Ave., Berwyn
Vineyard (1st & 2nd weeks), 705 W. Jackson Blvd.
Berwyn United Lutheran (3rd & 4th weeks), 2400 S. Harvey Ave.

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