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Somerville Minister Loosens His Collar, Proclaims Hawaiian Shirt Day for Sunday Service

Rev. Paul Janssen, pastor of United Reform Church in Somerville, with administrative assistant Lori Herpen. Credits: Rod Hirsch

SOMERVILLE, NJ – Like most modern-day ministers, Rev. Paul Janssen, pastor at United Reformed Church, uses social media to keep his congregation informed of church-related events and to attract new worshippers.

The congregation’s Facebook page is an open forum; he invites debate, encourages dialog and suggestions.

He’ll also offer a preview on the topic of his upcoming sermon.

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However, his latest message, posted earlier this week, is a departure from the norm.

Janssen has invited those planning to attend the 10 a.m. service at the church Sunday to wear a Hawaiian shirt.

He credits administrative assistant Lori Herpen with the idea.

“It was just an offhand comment, ‘wouldn’t it be fun if we had a Hawaiian Shirt Sunday,” Janssen explained.

Turns out, this wouldn’t be the first time congregants opted to wear Hawaiian shirts at a church gathering, according to Janssen.

He recently came across an old photo album that shows church members at a church-sponsored picnic in Frenchtown wearing Hawaiian shirts.

“All this is, is let’s have a little fun,” Janssen said.

Hawaiian shirts, also known as Aloha shirts or island shirts, were first designed and manufactured by a Chinese merchant in the early 1930s in Waikiki. The loud, colorful designs quickly caught on with locals, especially surfers, and tourists. It wasn’t long before major designer labels sprung up all over Hawaii and began manufacturing and selling lightweight Aloha shirts en masse.

Janssen said he’s trying to figure a way to incorporate the shirts into Sunday’s sermon.

They are loud, and there is a psalm that that makes this reference:

“Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth; break forth into joyous song and sing praises!

Aloha Ke akua (God is Love).

United Reform Church is located at 100 W. Main St., Somerville.

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