WELLESLEY FALLS, Mass. In this affluent suburb of Boston, churchgoers at the Wellesley Falls Presbyterian Church tend to look like they stepped out of the pages of a Brooks Brothers catalog, or perhaps the shop window of the Talbots store down the street.
No shoes, no shirt, no Sunday service.
"I like a nice church service," says Sarah Ward, whose family has been members of the church for three generations. "Looking nice is part of the experience."
"I'm sorry, no pets allowed."
The church has never had a dress code, and has never needed one, until recently. "Part of it is a decline in standards across the country," says Ernest Homer, a lay deacon, as he glares disapprovingly at a man in a polo shirt entering the church vestibule. "The other part is just plain stupidity," he says with disgust.
Homer's anger is prompted by the appearance of Dan Martin, groundskeeper at a local country club who has begun to attend Sunday services in garb--sackcloth and sandals--that would not appear out of place on Jesus himself or one of his Apostles, but which sticks out like a sore thumb among the well-dressed congregation he has joined.
"Yeah, a lot of people say I look like Dan Fogelberg."
"The best part of my relationship with God is getting dressed up for church on Sunday," says Mitzi Heinz, a former commercial banker turned stay-at-home mom who says she misses the days when she wore nice clothes to work. "I don't go to church to sit next to somebody who looks like Jesus."
The church has struggled with the issue, offering Martin a blue blazer and tie in much the same manner that pricey restaurants try to enforce their dress codes without turning away business, but to no avail. "Jesus said, 'Look at the lilies of the field, how they neither toil nor spin,'" Martin says, quoting the Sermon on the Mount. "'Even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these,' and he had charge accounts at all the more fashionable stores of his day."
But Mitzi Heinz is unimpressed. "I've heard of Lilly Pulitzer," she sniffs. "Where do they sell Lilies of the Fields?"
Copyright 2007, Con Chapman