Church Etiquette

When I was a child, I’d always receive instructions when my parents took me somewhere. One of daddy’s basic rules was always, “Children are to be seen and not heard.” For those brought up like I was, we knew what this meant, and you didn’t dare test it. However, on certain occasions, there would be an additional set of instructions. Attending funerals meant absolutely no horseplay whatsoever. People were hurting, we were there for them in their time of need, and we didn’t draw attention to ourselves at all. When it came to attending weddings, and especially if we were in suits, I was told that a gentleman never removed his suit jacket until he was ready to change out of his outfit altogether.

When my gram passed away, Emily Post books were found that belonged to her. For those who don’t know, Emily Post was a famous author who wrote220px-Brooklyn_Museum_-_Emily_Post_-_Emil_Fuchs_-_overall about etiquette. That’s what she was known for and my gram, who was the kindest woman I’ve ever known, was all about manners and appropriateness. Daddy told me that she was a stickler for etiquette when it came to social situations. Now, gram never judged others if they didn’t share her manners, but her boys would be well behaved in all situations, whatever it called for. I remember once after church when daddy removed his suit jacket remarking, “You know you couldn’t do that if gram were here.” He quickly put it back on, and we all chuckled.

Some of these things mean very little to people today, but it’s how I was raised. I’ve heard many people remark on how manners seem to be virtually non-existent, let alone what someone could say about etiquette. We must confess that there are ways to behave in certain situations including and up to our dress. We call it etiquette, but intimately connected to etiquette is beauty.

Table manners help to conserve the perception of the mouth as one of the windows of the soul, even in the act of eating. That is why people strive not to speak with a full mouth, or to let food drop from their mouths onto the plate. It is why forks and chopsticks were invented, and why Africans, when they eat with their fingers, shape their hands gracefully so that the food passes without trace into the mouth, which retains its sociable aspect as the food is ingested.

(Roger Scruton, Beauty [Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2009], 48.) 

When we speak about etiquette and manners and their connection to beauty, we’re reminded of what Dostoevsky wrote, “Beauty will save the world.” Therefore, connected to etiquette and manners is one’s behavior. That, after all, is one word that describes them both and also surmises how they are played out. 

When Paul wrote the first epistle to Timothy, he did so for Timothy to know how he should conduct himself in the house of God (1 Tim. 3:15). That, we may conclude, is the whole reason for writing this first epistle—etiquette, manners, conduct in the church.

In every civilization at every period of history people have devoted time and energy to sacred things. The sacred, like the beautiful, includes every category of object. There are sacred words, sacred gestures, sacred rites, sacred clothes, sacred places, sacred times. Sacred things are not of this world: they are set apart from ordinary reality and cannot be touched or uttered without rites of initiation or the privilege of religious office. To meddle with them without some purifying preparation is to run the risk of sacrilege. It is to desecrate and pollute what is holy, by dragging it down into the sphere of everyday events.

(Scruton, Ibid., 52)

Nowadays so many want to take the sacredness of the church assembly and turn it into something as familiar as a sporting event or concert. No! This is the solemn assembly of God’s people communing with Him in the Spirit. During this time, heaven and earth merge for the time we are together praising, praying, and preaching about Him. We have before us the altar of our Lord Jesus (The Lord’s Table; Heb. 13:10), on which His sacrificed body and blood are present for us to put us in remembrance of such and the New Covenant instituted by His offering of them. This is not common at all, it’s beautiful, and it can save the world because of the reality of what Christ did on the cross. 

2 thoughts on “Church Etiquette

  1. We have indeed lost our sense of the sacred in many ways. We have turned the holy into the common. We heard the reason early on was to attract people of the world. Yet, our attendance is waning almost everywhere.

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