Church Etiquette (Lesson 7)
The things that Miss Manners Left Out
" ..this is NOT a drive through ..."
The ninth Apostolic Canon chastises those who arrive late to church as well as those who leave early. Leaving church before the final dismissal - besides being rude - deprives us of a blessing. Worship has a beginning ("Blessed is the Kingdom...") and an end ("Let us depart in peace..."). To leave immediately after communion is comparable to treating the church like a fast food restaurant, where we come and go as we please. True, we live in a fast paced world where we seem to constantly be hurrying from place to place. But in God's presence, we need to make every attempt to fight this pressure to move on to the next item on the day's agenda and treat church like just another meeting or social appointment. We deprive ourselves of blessings by NOT being still and participating in God's holiness. Eat and run at Burger King - but stay in church and thank God for His precious gifts.
"Summing it all up..."
American culture and society, particularly in Florida, is very casual in its approach to life. Don't allow this prevailing attitude to enter into your Orthodox Christian piety. If it has, NOW is the time to re-visit your level of understanding and commitment to Christ and His Church. There are plenty of other areas that could be included here or covered more thoroughly. Most church etiquette is largely based upon common sense and showing respect for God and others. Always remember that you are in church to worship God, the Holy Trinity. The priest says, "In the fear (awe) of God, with faith and in love draw near." Let this be the way in which you approach every aspect of Christian life as well as church worship. If you practice these things, the unruly behavior of the past will simply be that, THE PAST.
Let us all, as God's family, with our priests and bishops as Christ's representatives, as the fathers in the local church families, begin to take God's things more seriously by showing the proper respect and reverence for His worship. In this new Church Year, let us all embark upon a "more spiritual manner of living, both thinking and doing those things that are well pleasing unto God."
[This article was adapted by Fr. John Chudik for local parish use at St. Mark Orthodox Church, Sarasota-Bradenton, FL, from an article published in The Word magazine in January 1997 by Fr. David Barr. No reproduction or distribution may occur without the permission of the author.]