Welcome—fairy costume and all


By Jessica Brodie

When my daughter was two, she went through a fun phase I call No Clothes, No Thanks. Avery, who today at age nine is an agreeable (and opinionated) charmer and leader with loads of decorum, apparently decided that the stimulus of regular clothing was just too much for her toddler self. She decided to rebel against the woes and trappings of society by throwing a fit in the car and taking it all off. Every. Single. Stitch. Every day for several months.

Ah, the early years.

The phase progressed. Later, I learned there was a special name for this, Sensory Processing Sensitivity, but at the time, it was enough to pull this working mom’s hair out. Soon enough, I happily discovered there were two things Avery would wear without a fight: a bathing suit and her fairy costume, complete with sparkly wings.

Now, right about this time I’d moved to South Carolina from out of state, and I was searching for a new church home for my little family. I quickly found a church that had a super-casual but very Christ-centered Saturday night service, and the dress code (I asked!) was most certainly come-as-you-are.

Those sweet people in the pews never batted an eye when my wild-haired kiddo strode through those doors and plopped into the third-from-front pew in her aqua-and-pink fairy dress and flip-flops. They didn’t say a word when I’m pretty sure they had to crane their necks around her glorious fairy wings to see the song lyrics on the screens. They just said welcome, glad you’re here, how’s it going. They didn’t know me from Adam (well, Eve), but they rolled with it—and they really didn’t seem to mind at all. My kids and I went back week after week. We became members.

That was seven years ago, and even though Avery has fully embraced clothing again and we’ve shifted to the Sunday morning services, I still can’t forget those early days, when I was tempted to skip church because I was afraid our messy life would be too much for “regular folk,” but instead found authentic, genuine welcome.

My church is still that welcoming. You can wear what you want, bring in your coffee, raise your hands, or sit stone-still in the pew. You can go all-out for bass-thumping modern praise music or like the High Church choir and rituals. Whatever your life, whatever your scene, if you’re all about worshiping God and putting Christ first in your life, the other stuff just doesn’t matter. You are welcome. Period.

I’m not saying I ever went to a church where I was shunned because my child wasn’t wearing an embroidered smock or because we “just weren’t from around here.” But that was a tough stage in my life, and I felt vulnerable. Friends shared stories about how they didn’t do church anymore because some lady at some random church gave them the stink-eye when their four-year-old chortled during the service or they were politely escorted to the narthex where they could “get things together.” I was worried about my stains showing, worried I too would be steered out because I didn’t have it all together.

It felt good to be loved and accepted as I was. It made me feel wanted and part of a family. And today it’s made me invite friends—and strangers—to my church. They, too, should get to enjoy the fellowship I enjoy among other Christian believers. We all should.

No matter what’s going on in our lives—if we have fairy-costumed toddlers or are struggling with deeper, darker things, such as addiction or an off-kilter lifestyle—we all should be welcomed at church. And as church members, if we see someone not dressed quite “right” or who looks slightly “off” or smells bad, we have an obligation to look past all that. We have an obligation to see them for who they are: souls searching for belonging, souls eager to worship the One True God, no matter their political or social beliefs or lifestyles.

We’re all in this together. Mess and all.

Jessica Brodie is a Christian author, journalist, editor, blogger, and writing coach. She is a member of Mount Horeb United Methodist Church, Lexington (https://web.mthorebumc.com).