Despite the coronavirus pandemic halting in-person religious services around the country, an 82-year-old Black Oklahoma churchgoer has been present for 52 virtual Sunday services, decked out in a new look each week.
Laverne Wimberly, a member of Metropolitan Baptist Church in Tulsa, said she has been going to church virtually in the same fashion she’s been attending in-person, at least from a fashion perspective.
“I just decided at that point I’m just going to get dressed as if I was going to church, so I would not get into the habit of just slouching around,” the snazzy dresser told news station KTUL.
When the church moved Sunday worship online last spring, Wimberly said there was an adjustment period but she had no doubts she would continue to be an avid congregant. With many people deciding to attend virtual gatherings in their pajamas or loungewear, the 82-year-old expressed that she sees her outfits as a way to inspire others through the dregs of the pandemic.
“I wanted not only to keep myself motivated, but I wanted to help keep others motivated as well, to inspire them, encourage them, and kind of eradicate some types and forms of depression, isolation, fear and despair,” she said.
Every weekend, Wimberly, a longtime teacher, principal, and school administrator, dressed up in a unique, color-coordinated outfit, topped off with a large matching hat and accessories.
If showing up online was a person….
Dr La Verne Wimberly shows up like this to her Sunday church virtual service.
Come through Aunty!
Beautiful ! ❤️🥰 pic.twitter.com/EVbtATpdi6
— Terri-Karelle Reid (@TerriKarelle) March 23, 2021
She kept a digital journal of what she wore and posted her outfits every Sunday in a Facebook post, according to The Daily Mail.
“I got a lot of feedback, more feedback than I wanted on the way I looked,” Wimberly said. “I really wanted them to focus on the message. I did have to say one time during one of those posts, to focus on the message rather than on me.”
Metro Baptist leadership said the woman’s colorful attire and bright personality have been missed by much of the congregation.
“I would see Dr. Wimberly every Sunday morning,” Minister of Worship Merton Huff said. “She was the first person in the sanctuary with me.”
The church leader said he longs to welcome members back to in-person service, but until that is a reality once more, Huff said it is heartwarming and reassuring to see Wimberly’s pictures and posts.
“I don’t think she has missed a Sunday of just devotionals, encouragement. It’s like she gives you a sermon before service even starts. It gives you something to focus on,” Huff said. “And, you know, of course the dressing up, it made my kids get dressed.”
Even though she’s made the digital adjustment, the 82-year-old said she will run through the church doors when it is permitted.
“As soon as the health officials and the scientists give us the green light that everything will be safe, I’ll probably be the first one in the door,” she said.