Whenever we spend time inside an Orthodox church, we need to make sure we conduct ourselves properly and use proper etiquette. Remember, we participate in the Divine Services for no other reason than to worship God. In this post, we lay out ten things you should never do while in church.
1. DON’T talk during services
One of the rudest things we can do in church is chat with someone inside the temple. Talking during Liturgy distracts others from their worship; it serves as a stumbling block to our brothers and sisters, which St. Paul tells us we should never do (Romans 14:13).
Don’t worry about offending someone by “ignoring” them. No one will find your focus on God (and not on them) rude. A simple smile is enough to let them know you are happy to see them, and will gladly catch up with them later.
2. DON’T text or take phone calls
Your conversations from the outside world can wait. You are in church to worship God; He deserves your full, undivided attention. While may seem obvious, you’d be surprised how many times a phone will go off in the middle of a service. Please remember to silence (do not disturb, not vibrate) your phone or turn it off completely. If you have an emergency, you can step out of the temple to make/take a call.
3. DON’T save seats
The Divine services aren’t a show or football game. You come to church to worship the Lord, so your focus should be on Him, not on who is or is not sitting/standing beside you. Therefore, we should not save seats for other family members or friends. To do so is not considerate of the other parishioners or to any visitors to your church. Visitors sometimes become intimidated when they see all the seats at the back of the church already filled. Please make room for those people and allow them to feel welcome.
4. DON’T wear lipstick or gloss
This one is mainly for the ladies. We have many holy objects within the church that the faithful venerate, like the Gospel, the Cross, and the holy icons and relics. Lipstick can ruin these sacred objects. Thus, we recommend not wearing anything on your lips when attending church, whether it’s lipstick, gloss, or even chapstick. After all, you come to worship God, not to show off your makeup. God loves you the way He made you – au naturale.
If you absolutely insist on wearing lipstick, please blot your lips well before venerating anything, and do not approach the chalice to receive Holy Communion.
5. DON’T chew gum
Gum chewing during worship distracts those standing near us. And quite frankly, is incredibly rude in most social contexts, but particularly so in God’s house. A general rule of thumb: if you wouldn’t do it in the presence of a king or queen, why would you do it in the house of God?
6. DON’T take pictures
Generally, we discourage people from taking pictures and videos. Do not take pictures or videos of other faithful without their express consent, especially if you intend to use your footage on a public forum or in a YouTube video. If you do film or take pictures, we ask that you do not do this from behind the priest. We also ask that you do not stand in or in front of the altar, because that is where our Lord is present.
7. DON’T let your children get too rowdy
You can (and should) bring your children to church to worship with you! Just remember to keep a close eye on them and watch their volume level. A bit of babble and whining usually doesn’t bother most people, but when a child gets too fussy, they can start to distract other worshipers.
Simply excuse yourself if your child ever gets rowdy or begins to cry loudly. Some parishes (like ours) have sound proof cry rooms where you can continue to participate in the service. If the parish doesn’t have one, simply excuse yourself to the narthex or to the parish social hall until your child has calmed down.
8. DON’T wear revealing clothes
Since we are in the presence of God Himself during our worship, we should take care not to wear immodest, revealing clothes. We should always dress modestly (this applies to both men and women). Check out our post on dressing for an Orthodox church service for helpful tips and guidelines.
9. DON’T take Communion if you show up late
Arriving late to the Divine services shows lack of consideration on our part and poor management of the gift of time God has given us. As a general rule, if an Orthodox Christian arrives after the reading of the Gospel, he or she should refrain from receiving Holy Communion.
When we plan to partake of the Eucharist, we fast from food and drink from midnight onward and prepare spiritually through prayer. We are already unworthy of the Holy Gifts; therefore, it would be unwise to further compound that unworthiness by partaking of them after showing up late.
See your local parish’s service schedule for times, to make sure you are not late!
10. DON’T walk in front of the priest
During the service, the priest will come out of the altar on several occasions. Whenever he does come out of the altar, take special care not to walk in front of the priest, especially when he is walking up and down the aisles to bless the people.
Additionally, if the priest is passing by, please do not grab onto his vestments. You can touch the hems, as did the woman with an issue of blood (Matthew 9:18-26; Mark 5:22-43; Luke 8:41-56). But please refrain from grabbing on; this can cause the priest to stumble or trip!
These are some of the behaviors that absolutely are not acceptable during Orthodox worship. Are there any DON’Ts that we missed? Let us know in the comments!
Read More: Church Etiquette: The Ultimate Guide