In Defense of Looking Divine

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Parishioners outside Harlem’s Abyssinia Baptist Church

Whatever Happened to Sunday go to Meeting Clothes? “I love dressing up, but I don’t want MY church to emphasize fashion. Everyone should feel welcome -sweat pants and all – that is if it is a place of spiritual worship. My fashion choices should not make one feel insulted IN CHURCH. Let’s encourage people to actually practice, live their religion -even the minister.”

I could not disagree with the above comment more.  Who said the church – in this case the world famous Abyssinia Baptist Church in Harlem – “emphasizes” fashion choices…certainly not I.  What I did was comment on how sharp the parishioners are and celebrate it as a good and welcome practice: decorating oneself to the height of fashion when entering the House of the Lord.

However anybody who knows anything about the history or current activities of this church knows that they are one of the most progressive churches in the nation. This is the church built by Adam Clayton Powell Sr., whose son went on to become the most progressive congressman of his time…and as Chairman of an important committee dealing with health, welfare and labor issues authored and got passed 60 bills that established the laws which are critical to the safety net benefits all Americans enjoy today!

He was also a leader in the civil rights movement and along with his beautiful, musically gifted wife Hazel Scott – and artist whose brilliance is unmatched today – set a standard for high fashion in Harlem that dazzled the world.

The Social Event of 1945 in Harlem

Adam C. Powell and Hazel Scott

The Wedding of Adam Clayton Powell and Hazel Scott
The Performing Artist and the Preacher/Politician
Adam Powell and Hazel Scott
 The Most Stylish Couple in New York!
 The Reverend Adam Clayton Powell Marries Nat and Maria Cole
Adam Powell marries Nat Cole 
Elegance and High Style was the Order of the Day
Two Harlem Foxes: New York’s Finest
Adam's wife Hazel and Lena Horne
Hazel Scott Hangin Out with her Girl Lena Horne
 The Elegance of that Era
Abiodun's Tribute 115
Is personified in the high style of Harlem Congressman Charlie Rangel
 And the Parishioners of Abyssinia Church
A Fine Straw Bonnet
There are no better dressed congregations in New York City!
Elegance is also Alive and Well on Sugar Hill
On Sugar Hill
The Personification of Old School Cool
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The present Pastor, Reverend Doctor Calvin Butts, a minister with a PhD, is one of the most progressive preachers in America whose good works are far too numerous to list here.  Suffice it to say that Abyssinia Baptist Church embodies everything that is great and good about the black American church which Dr. Dubois, an atheist like me – called “one of the most amazing institutions ever created by human beings.”

Now as to the matter of proper attire for church services: I think the comment  “Everyone should feel welcome -sweat pants and all, that is if it is a place of spiritual worship” thoroughly misses the point.  In every society, no matter how simple or complex its development, there are ceremonies and rituals that require the participants to groom and decorate themselves for the occasion.

The elaborateness of the costume is symbolic of the gravitas of the ceremony.  Hence if one believes that God is the creator of the world, and that any good fortune that befalls us is by his grace alone, then not to adorn oneself in finery when you enter his house strikes me as a sacrilege!!!!

Whatever happened to “Sunday go to meeting clothes?”  I was walking around just this last Sunday and saw some young people coming out of a non-black church and I was appalled!  They looked like they were coming from a hip hop show.  If I were the pastor of a church I would have fashion police stationed at the door for the express purpose of turning such people away!!!!

You cannot convince me that you understand the gravitas of the occasion if you are not willing to groom and decorate yourself in your best garments before entering this holy space!!!!  Enough of this disdain for elegance that is plaguing our society…the difference in the attire of black performers like Nat King Cole, Billy Ekstine, Miles Davis, Duke Ellington and Jackie Wilson when compared to Snoop Dog and Little Wayne is a measure of the degree of decadence that is infecting black American culture!

Standing in the Need of Prayer!

lil-wayne-photo

Evidenc of the Hip Hop Fashion Disaster
ENOUGH IS ENOUGH!!!!  IN MY VIEW: IF YOU CAN’T DRESS UP TO VISIT THE HOUSE OF THE LORD THEN YOUR SPIRITUALTY IS ABOUT AS DEEP AS A DRY CREEK BED DURING A DROUGHT!!!!!!

 

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Playthell G. Benjamin
Way Out West, with Harlem on my Mind
April 25, 2014

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