There was a day not that long ago when many women wore hats to church.
This weekend, that tradition will be honored in a special program at a Topeka church.
The 12th annual “100 Women in White” service is being combined with the second “Hat-e-lujah” program at 3:30 p.m Sunday, July 16, at St. Luke Missionary Baptist Church, 2222 S.E. Madison.
The program is sponsored by Mount Olive Primitive Baptist Church in North Topeka, but is being held at the St. Luke location, which has more seating.
The Rev. David Helm, pastor of the Mount Olive church, said late wife, Velma, came up with the idea for the first “100 Women in White” program a dozen years ago.
“My wife, Velma, had a vision that she wanted to bring 100 women dressed in white together to show unity, and for Christian women to be able to stand strong as women in society,” Helm said earlier this week. “After she passed in 2005, the church decided to keep that going. So they have this every year.”
The first and only “Hat-e-lujah” service to date was held four years ago, Helm said.
“One of our former members, Betty Dunn, actually had the idea for the first ‘Hat-e-lujah,’” Helm said. “That’s what she wanted to do, where the women would come in different colored hats. It was a great turnout, a great event.”
Dunn, a former city councilwoman, has since moved to North Carolina. Until this weekend, the “Hat-e-lujah” program hasn’t been held since she left.
Helm said he liked the idea of combining the “100 Women in White” and “Hat-e-lujah” programs into a single service.
“I thought it would be nice,” Helm said. “They’re still in their white dresses, still showing unity, but then the ‘Hat-e-lujah’ … to have a rainbow of hats — has to be a beautiful event. I am really waiting for Sunday to get here. I’m intending on videoing it on my cellphone.”
Mount Olive church member Christine Thomas said she was looking forward to Sunday’s program. She said she is anticipating a wide variety of colors and styles of hats.
“I’m just excited to see the Skittle colors,” Thomas said. “When you open up a bag of Skittles, the colors are so vibrant and pretty. You’ve got your greens, oranges, blues, purples and reds. I believe that’s what this ‘Hat-e-lujah’ is gong to be like. We’re going to see a rainbow of colors of hats, styles, flairs, attitudes. It’s going to be off the hook.”
Thomas added that the event is open to any woman who would like to participate.
“Any woman who wants to come out and strut her hat, come on ,” Thomas said. “We’re ready.”
Thomas said the “Hat-e-lujah” also honors the tradition of women wearing hats to church.
“This is going to be the first time to bring back the old style of when we women did wear hats to church,” she said. “It was our crown. Our hats were our crown, and that is what it’s going to be about.”
The program will feature special music from local churches and from vocalists Gale Martin and Kendra White.
Shirley Goode, another Mount Olive member, said the program is being undertaken in honor of Velma Helm, honoring her vision of bringing Christian women together.
“It’s an annual thing, and it’s a tribute to our late first lady,” Goode said. “She always envisioned seeing 100 women all in white.
“The first year she did this was in July, and then she passed in August the same year, 2005, so we said we’re going to make this an annual thing in tribute to her, because we loved her so much.”
And just to set the record straight, many women still wear hats to church on Sundays.
“Oh yes, people still wear hats,” Goode said. “I”m one of them.”