Sunday Bloody Sunday

bromley, Church, Hats, head coverings, jesus, Religion, salvation army, Tradition

Hatted Matt

Well, hello, and sorry it’s been so long.

So, this morning, I decided to head off with my folks to my old church. And I decided to wear my new hat that I’d bought in France. We got there in plenty of time, I sat down in the ‘gallery’ upstairs, and after a few minutes an elderly Salvation Army officer leans forward and says “Have you forgotten your hat?” Unsure as to what he meant (as I was clearly wearing one), I said “sorry?”, to which he explained “You don’t wear hats in church!”. “Don’t you?” I replied, quietly collected my things and moved elsewhere.

(For those unfamiliar with the Salvation Army, officers are akin to vicars/pastors and, at Bromley, there are loads of retired ones)

Relaying this story to my mum (who’d been in the toilet), we proceeded to walk down the aisle downstairs. An elderly lady accosted me, saying “take your hat off!” and actually grabbing said cap to try and pull it off. (She was unsuccessful.)

 Now, this post isn’t intended to start a debate on whether hats should be worn in a church building, or in Christian worship, or whatever. I have good friends who have different opinions to me on “head coverings”, and these opinions are the result of a genuine study of the Bible. My perspective is simply that what I wear shouldn’t lead my brothers or sisters into temptation; outside that God doesn’t give a stuff what I wear. (Although you may agree with my mate who told me after these 2 incidents that I should take off my hat because it was a rubbish hat.)

What really upset me was this: if a non-Christian walked into that church and the very first thing anyone said to him was as rude and pompous as “take your hat off!” I’m sure they wouldn’t be coming back any time soon. The elderly saint who spoke to me in the first incident later apologised to my dad, saying “I’d never have said that if I’d realised it was your son.” Which I actually find far more offensive.

 Anyway, I headed into town for Bromley’s largest ever international market (400m long apparently), amongst the masses who had turned out, and wondered why on earth the church doesn’t get out where the people are more.

Jesus hung out with the wrong people, enjoying genuine relationships with them and chastised the religious know-it-all do-it-alls something chronic. That’s where I wanna be.


14 thoughts on “Sunday Bloody Sunday

  1. Hi Matt – good to have you back on the blog. Not done any specific study about the rights and/or wrongs about wearing a hat, but stand shoulder to shoulder with you in the fact that really, it doesn’t matter one jot. If a person wants to come to be part of a Church on whatever level that may be then let God be their judge not us. I commend you on your commitment to God in the fact you stayed in that service. Many a person would have been forgiven for walking out. It is a sad reflection on the state of TSA in this day as I’m sad to be be sure that this is probably not an isolated incident. Let people come in – let them wear hats. If its wrong, God will guide them in time. Lets just take time to love their hearts.

  2. You make a terrific point…I am sure if you came into my local SA, you’d probably get similar treatment. Not sure why this is, just something that is a little troubling — when my purpose would be to win hearts and minds to Christ and then find people in my congregation who were more concerned about the fellow’s hat than his heart.

  3. I had a previous problem when in a similar church. In the full love of God I wanted to say so many bad words. Thankfully I held my tongue.

    It’s def. a worry that the Christ-curious could walk into naive minds such as those mentioned.

  4. At least they are bit more understanding of long haired unshaven tshirt loving jesus sandal wearing middleaged hippies else I would be in real trouble 🙂

  5. Hi Matt!
    Sounds like a cross generation thing to me, in previous generations people wore their best when they went to church, and gentlemen didnt wear hats inside, Ladies on the other hand (probably linked to headcovering verses) wore their hats inside.
    It is a shame that people cant see past what you wear and take an interest in who you are sometimes. Did you feel up for discussing it with said “officer dude?” Maybe it would hep him understand the “modern gentleman” that you are??
    peace brother.

  6. I’d just like to clarify that I believe many of the attenders of that church to be of very sound mind and genuine lovers of God and others.

    I also believe I caught these two particular older people on a bad day and forgive them totally.

    I was just surprised that I’d run into opinions like that.

  7. nice hat – what an odd experience – what a distraction – and I’m with you, the “apology” to your father was more offensive than the original incident.

    It seems to me that it is more likely that the issue was social conformity to the World, rather than any substantive offense in your faith tradition. It implies to an outsider that at least in this setting, the emphasis is not entirely on faith, and engagement with Christ, but on what the Jones’s are thinking about us. If as you say a non-believer were to enter wearing a head covering (a turban perhaps?) and was greeted with this situation – I think it would have definitely given the wrong impression: before you are welcome here, you must look, dress and speak like “us”.

  8. Hi Matt

    I came across this via Johnny Laird.

    What surprises me most about this story is not the what happend to you, but your surprise at their opinions.

    A simlar thing happened in my Church a while ago. I have to admit to feeling uncomfortable that one of our youngsters was wearing his hat. But I felt even more uncomfortable when someone told him off.

    I agree you were treated badly- visitor or not. But t I think I might understand why someone might feel strongly enough to say and do what they did.

    You have obviously given a lot of thought to this stuff, you’ve talked about it – you even have freinds who done Bible studies on the whole “hats in Church thing”!

    But I suspect the rather cross people you encountered have not. I guess that a long time ago someone told them it was disrespectful for men to wear a hat in Church (or out doors durring a prayer or Bible reading). And for years they have seen that tradition observed and no-one has ever told them any differant.

    No wonder they feel uncomfortable – there is a young man in their Church who doesn’t understand the rules and is being disrepectful – if not to God, to them at least.

    It would appear that the rules have changed and no one told them.

    Our part of the Church is very big on rules (orders and regulations). And I think what you encountered was a symptom of a bigger issue.

    Some of us are thinking about how we do Church – what matters and what doesn’t. We’re trying to work out what’s honouring to God and helpful to people.

    But some of us were told a long time ago how do to Church. So some of us never think about it being any differant – or we think about it and we don’t like it.

    Some of us have been exposed to new teaching and thinking. Some of us have missed out on this. Some of us have chosed to bury our heads in the sand.

    Whether or not I agree with the people who are frightened or offended by change I try to understand why they think like they do. If I don’t, I have no chance of helping them understand why I think like I do.

    Sorry to go on but I have to disagree with Johnny – I would care if you came dressed as a bannana. But that’s a debate for another day.

  9. Hi Heather,

    Thanks for your well-thought-out and balanced post. I agree with you; I need to try and understand why people whose behaviour threatens me act the way they do. When I said those 2 elderly people surprised me, I didn’t mean that it was totally out of the blue, only that the way they challenged me surprised me. I was aware that people might have a problem with me wearing a hat, as years ago some old lady told me that my spiky hair “wasn’t Christian.”

    So you might be thinking “well if you knew that, why did you decide to deliberately court controversy?” The answer to that is two-fold.

    Firstly, I am by nature a leader. I will not toe the line, be a mindless sheep, or become a number. I don’t want to conform – actually, I don’t think it’s right to conform. It’s a matter of integrity for me. And I don’t believe this is because I’m self-centred and arrogant either: my life is all about seeing people as individuals, discerning their potential, helping them grow and become unique, releasing them to play their part in the body of Christ. So, sure, part of me wanted to be a rebel by wearing a hat that *might* attract attention (although, I’ve worn hats there many times before and not had a problem)

    Secondly, I lived and worked in Manchester for 7 years in one of the top 0.5% most deprived areas in the UK (government statistics). Our church sought desperately to make people feel that they belong, way before their behaviour is challenged. We’ve had drug addicts, neglected and abused teenagers, Iranian refugees who can’t speak any English, single parents, people addicted to alcohol, gambling, and loads more in my church. And so, this issue of welcoming people that come to church isn’t just an ideal for me, it’s something I’ve tried hard to practice. And I am so convicted that this is right that I deliberately don’t hide my views, I try and live them out.

    To be honest, I’ve lost my train of thought and it might be easier to end here and start a new post. If anyone knows how I was going to end this, let me know!

  10. i wear hats in church. in fact, i play on the worship team whilst wearing a hat, i’ve PREACHED whilst wearing a hat, and do you know what i discovered? The Lord is more concerned with my heart than my hat, in fact, my hat was not at all a hindrance to the Holy Spirit when He was working through me. At one point i forgot i was wearing it. I think the hat thing in the Bible is aimed more toward the culture paul was speaking to rather than the overall church

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