I'm rocking the orange tie to church this morning in celebration of the Lady Vols' softball super regional win over Alabama. Truth be told, I'd wear an orange tie if we beat Alabama in underwater basket weaving.
Tennessee Football isn't just about Saturdays in the fall. It bleeds into the whole weekend, with a heavy dose of anticipation on Friday, an absolutely full day on Saturday both pre, during, and post game...and then there's Sunday morning. Sunday morning either brings the thrill of victory, or the agony of defeat. And the power of both is felt all over East Tennessee, including and often especially in church attendance.
It's a phenomenon that rubs a few of my fellow clergy the wrong way. Why should anyone get so worked up about something that seems to be of such little importance in the grand scheme of things? I continue to believe that life is full of things you get out of what you put into, and that list includes both faith and Tennessee Football.
When the Vols lose, you feel it not just in churches, but throughout local communities in East Tennessee. Workplaces are more dreary on Monday morning. Things just aren't as bright for a few days. But oh, when we win. And especially when we win one that really counts? Everything looks orange. And church on Sunday morning is often the first line of celebration after a Saturday night victory.
You don't just break out the orange tie for anyone. When we beat Austin Peay, it will stay in the closet. As such, I haven't gotten much use out of the three you see up there and the two others I can't even find right now over the last five years. Wearing an orange tie has become an even more rare and still quite special occasion for me.
I've had other pastors tell me it's a distraction, and maybe that's true. But I also believe in authenticity. You want your pastor to be who he or she is. And for me and many others in the ministry, whether we follow the Vols or someone else, often times we come to church just as excited or just as crushed as you are. But we all always come as we are.
What I missed during the six years I served in Virginia, deep in the heart of Hokie Nation, is the way one orange tie can lead to another. One person starts doing it after a big win, we all start doing it. At my church in Athens, you should've seen 'em after we beat Kentucky by 30 in basketball this year.
There are, without question, more important things than whether Tennessee won or lost on Saturday. And churches celebrate some of the very best and most important things in life. I have always been comforted, and especially recently, that Saturday nights are always followed by Sunday mornings.
But in East Tennessee, life is simply better when the Vols are winning. And I love being a pastor in East Tennessee and getting to share in that, when the passing of the peace becomes the passing of a high five or a knowing look. Good churches are full of people who share life together. And I love getting to share this part of my life on Sunday morning.