Garments fitting for man of God

CANDID CLOSET

Candid Closet: Dr. Freddie L. Harper believes in looking good when ministering to his congregation.

November 25, 1999|By Stephanie Shapiro | Stephanie Shapiro,SUN STAFF

Ask Dr. Freddie L. Harper, pastor of Truth & Love Lighthouse Christian Center in Woodlawn, to distill his fashion philosophy, and this is what he says: "No more collar, no more robe, but a sanctified wardrobe."

Harper, 52, doesn't want his Sunday dress to distance him from his 300-member congregation. But don't get the idea that he dresses in drab. Think tailored suits in yellow, purple, pink, blue, white. "People come in needing hope," says the pastor, who lives in Woodstock. His flamboyant dress "puts a little sunshine in their day. Jesus himself wore colors, and they fought over his robe. He had a very elaborate wardrobe, made by the best seamstresses in his day."

Thanksgiving is as good a time as any for Harper to appreciate the freedom to dress as he pleases, for which he gladly gives thanks: "Dressing is very important. By coming up in the pulpit with the regular clothes that people wear, that gives them something to identify with. And that helps me feel their problems and challenges."

Where do you get your suits?

I get them made from a tailor, George Thompson, in Washington, D.C. My wife has some boutiques there she likes, so I coordinate my suits according to what she has. We dress alike a lot. I'm this way: As a man of God, it would be a very poor attitude for me to be dressed first class and my wife not dressed first class. I've seen that a lot at the church. The preacher man dressed real well, and the wife looks like a pauper.

What does your wardrobe tell children in your congregation?

Our young people need to have strong role models. When young people come into church and really kind of look at me real hard, they think, "He's really dressed nice." In the church, in representing God and Jesus Christ, you can be really positive and look good.

What kind of message does your clothing send about material comfort?

Here's what I teach: Jesus said, "I have come that you may have life and you may have it more abundantly." God expects us to have a first-class life, to live the best, wear the best, drive the best. The idea that you've got to be poor to please God, that's nonsense. When people come and see some men of God who don't have their shoes shined, they look like beggars, rather than ambassadors. That's not good.

Do your suits serve the same purpose in the community?

Even if I go to the supermarket, people will compliment me. That gives me an opportunity to tell them how much God loves them. A good look, a nice and friendly smile; all those things work together with a good heart. That opens the door to minister to people. There are times I've prayed with people right in supermarkets.

Is it true you coordinate your suits with wedding parties?

Once I find out from the wedding party what they're wearing, I'll try to dress to have a little flair. I try not to outshine the groom.

Has your style rubbed off on the church?

I'm not kidding, you should see the dress in our church. There's a real good sense of wellness.

What do your two children say about your style?

They say, "Dad, you got it going on."

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