The holidays are here, so that means infrequent church attendees will be making their way back to their houses of worship to celebrate Christmas and ring in the New Year.
Those who haven’t been to a religious service in a while may need to brush up on their church etiquette. Worship decorum can be pretty contextual depending on the denomination. But there are some things that Charleston area pastors agree members should abstain from during a service.
Here’s what not to do as you head to church for the holidays.
Show up late
Crowds of parishioners who stroll in tardy can be distracting to those who are seated. Most services start late enough in the morning, often 11 a.m., for you to show up on time. Being late can cause you to miss an inspiring song, scripture reading or prayer.
Walk out during prayer, sermon
Unless it’s an emergency, avoid walking out during intimate moments, such as when a prayer is being said or the sermon is being delivered. Ushers standing at their posts at the doorways may even ask that you wait for a more appropriate time, which could be embarrassing. Choir selections and the period for donating your offering are usually more suitable times to exit for a water or bathroom break.
Use your phone frivolously
Checking your Facebook feed is not the same as reading the Book of Galatians. Not only is texting frivolously distracting you from spiritual renewal, but it can be distracting to others, as well.
“In the same way when you go to a movie … be considerate,” said the Rev. Spike Coleman of St. Andrew's Presbyterian Church.
Forget to silence phone
Silence your cellular device before you head into the sanctuary. Some church bulletins have memos to remind you. Don’t be that person whose ringtone blurts out when the announcements are being read.
Ignore your screaming infant
Many houses of worship have narthex and fellowship halls with television monitors where parents can soothe disgruntled infants. Some even stream the service on television monitors so that parents don't miss the experience.
“I have been in churches where the child is just screaming and they’re not being taken out. At some point one might hope it might be helpful to just step out," said the Rev. Adam Shoemaker of St. Stephen's Episcopal Church.
Leave trash in the pews
This includes worship bulletins. You can share them with those who were unable to attend the service. Don't leave it to the church sexton and trustee to clean up your mess.
Even if you're irked when the minister mispronounces a word or the choir misses a tune, don't let it show on your face. They have feelings, too.
Lawton recalls when a member scowled at her after the preacher spilled wine while administering communion some years ago.
"If you can’t make a mistake in church, where can you make it?" she asked.
In conclusion, most churches attempt to make guests feel welcomed. So even if you don't abide by these guidelines when you head back to your house of worship, greeters, ushers and parishioners should be forgiving.