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Church Etiquette (Lesson 3)

The things that Miss Manners Left Out

"I just want to kiss you…"

Venerating icons is the usual tradition when one enters the church. As you walk through the door, make the sign of the cross upon yourself, then proceed directly to the icon in the center of the church. This is not the time for a meet and greet session with friends. When venerating the icon, be aware of where you are kissing. It is not appropriate to kiss an icon in the face. Would you go up to and kiss Jesus or His Mother on the lips? Probably not. You would kiss their hand and only if they invited you, would you even kiss their cheek.

You should stand quietly, focus on the icon before you and make the sign of the cross (either with or without a bow - this is a personal preference). Pay attention to what you are doing. When you approach the icon to venerate it, kiss the gospel, scroll or the hand cross in the hand of the person in the icon or kiss the hand, foot, or cross on the garment of the person depicted. As you venerate an icon, show proper respect to the person(s) depicted - as if you would in person, by venerating him or her in an appropriate place. Then make the sign of the cross on yourself again.

Some churches will have additional icon stands in the front of the church (usually in front of the icons of Christ and the Virgin Mary) or in other places throughout the church. Be considerate of others who are in line to venerate these icons and light their candles. This is a time for prayer, not for chit-chat.

Refrain from venerating icons in the front of the church if services have already started when you enter.

"Hmmm, what to wear...?"

Remember the time when people wore their “Sunday best” to go to church? In fact, dress clothes were often referred to as Sunday clothes. In some parts of the country this is not common today. This does not mean that church provides an opportunity for a fashion show, but dress in church has become way too casual.

We should offer Christ our “Sunday best” , not our everyday or common wear. We should dress modestly, not in a flashy way that draws attention to ourselves. Our dress should always be becoming of a Christian - especially at church.

Would you wear
this to Church?

Here are some specific guidelines that are used today:

Children - only young children (under 10 yrs. old) should wear shorts to church - and then only dress shorts. Athletic shorts, jeans shorts, cut offs or any kind of spandex are never appropriate in church (for children or adults!) Shoes or sandals should be clean and tied. No one should wear T-shirts of any kind (especially if they promote questionable advertising e.g. rock groups, beer ads, sports teams, etc.).

Women: Dresses should be modest. No tank tops ( or dresses with spaghetti straps), shoulders should be covered at all times; no shorts skirts or mini skirts, no skin tight clothing. Dresses or tops should not low cut (in the front or the back). If women wear pants in church, they should be dress pants ( not jeans, leggings, etc.). Shorts of any type are never appropriate for church. While head coverings are not necessary, some communities require women to wear scarves or some type of head coverings.

Men: Men should also dress modestly. While coat and tie are not mandatory, shirts should have collars and be buttoned up (the actual collar button may be left undone, but two or three buttons undone is inappropriate). Pants should be clean and neat. Blue (black or colored) jeans (especially ones with holes or patches) are too casual for church. Again shorts are NOT appropriate church wear.

Shoes : Dress shoes are most appropriate. Clean tennis shoes and sandals are also OK. Flip-flops and other beach type foot wear is too casual and should not be worn in church.

If you are going someplace after church where you need to dress casually, bring a change of clothing with you and change after fellowship time.

Remember to use your best judgment and good taste when dressing for church. After all you don't go to be seen by everyone else (or do you?), but you go to meet and to worship God.

"Posture everyone, posture..."

Since the American churches have largely adopted pews or chairs, sitting during parts of the service has become acceptable. However, when we sit do we realize that we are also sending a message to God as well? When seated we should have both feet on the floor and our backs against the back of the chair. There should never be any slouching or crossing of legs at anytime.

In some Orthodox cultures, crossing one's legs is taboo and considered to be very disrespectful. Also it is bad for those with compromised low extremity circulation. In our American culture, while there are no real taboos concerning crossing of one's legs, we tend to cross our legs to get comfortable when sitting. We should not cross our legs in church because it is "wrong", but rather because it is too casual and too relaxed for being in church.

Think about it - when you get settled in your favorite chair at home, you often lean back, cross your legs and let your mind wander where it may. Remember that sitting in church is a concession and a privilege, it is not the normative method of prayer. You surely don't want your mind to wander off too much. In fact, if you do sit, you should sit attentively with feet on the floor, ready to stand at attention (which is what “Let us attend” means). Cross yourself with your fingers and hand when in church, NOT with your legs!

Also when standing, you should be standing with your back straight (or as straight as possible and with your hands at your sides, not in your pockets or with your arms crossed like “I dream of Jeannie” or your hands on your hips – this is considered disrespectful and rude

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