Dressing to meet the King of Kings

The established churches are fast adopting the charismatic approach. The free-spirit movement has swept the townships in recent years and has transformed the church from being an altar where men and women worship God to a place where they compete for the status of best-dressed congregant.

The established churches are fast adopting the charismatic approach. The free-spirit movement has swept the townships in recent years and has transformed the church from being an altar where men and women worship God to a place where they compete for the status of best-dressed congregant.

Today, prominent and attractive pastors like Ray McCauley and celebrities like US soul star Mary J Blige are preaching the "prosperity gospel".

A born-again Christian, Blige has made no apologies for her luxurious tastes and insists that God wants her to have nice things. She claims that God wants her "to be the hottest thing on the block".

In South Africa, pastors are swapping their robes for funky designer suits and their rosaries for bling-bling.

In the old days, wearing jeans to church was taboo. But, with g-strings peeping over their jeans, women now totter about in high heels vying for attention.

Traditional church blouses have been traded in for backless designer tops and church waistcoats for designer jackets.

Pastor Tshidiso Mokoena, of the Zion Church of God in Orange Farm, said the "prosperity gospel" had put a lot of pressure on poor congregants, who cannot afford the flashy lifestyle, and had resulted in them leaving the church.

He said there were rules and regulations governing dress in his church.

"Clothes should be modest and appropriate for worshipping God.

"In recent years, we have had the problem of young women disturbing men by wearing short skirts and dresses," he said.

Mokoena said that after several incidents he had appointed elders to monitor adherence to dress codes for female congregants.

"Clothing is unacceptable when it is sleeveless, strapless, backless, revealing, or form-fitting. Shirts and tops must be long enough to cover the stomach and lower back, especially when bending over or raising ones hand or arm," he said.

Moeti Senaoane, of St Hilda's Anglican church in Soweto, said his church's dress code had changed with the times.

"Over the past few years, designs and textures have changed. Now people are allowed to wear high-heeled shoes as long as they are black."

Senaoane said his congregation had no objection to casual clothing "as long as they look decent".

"God loves people as they are, but you must be reasonable in your dressing. People must come to church looking presentable and smart.

"If people come to church half-naked, the elders call them to order," he said.

Pastor David Molapo, of the I Can Ministries in Johannesburg, said it was true that God was most interested in the heart, but it was also important that people be presentable.

"When you come to church you come to meet the King of Kings and you have to dress the part.

"Our god is a god of prosperity. He is the one who gives wealth to His children.

"But those who are blessed must not come to church with the wrong motive of flaunting their designer names," he said.

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