Church Etiquette: Lesson 4
The things that Miss Manners Left Out ...
Should I stay or should I go…
Granted there aren't many options for entry and exit, but the manner in which we come and go makes a world of difference, especially during service. Sometimes it seems as if there is a revolving door at the back of the church as people come and go to use the washroom. If the service has already begun and you must use this door, please open and close it (and all doors for that matter) quietly. Otherwise please use the aisles and walk around through the kitchen to use the washroom during services.
If young children are having a difficult day (and older folks as well) and need some time to regroup, please take them outside the church through the rear door for a brief period of time, then return through the same door and rejoin the community for worship.
...And there was wailing and great lamentation...
This refers not only to the events of Holy Friday but also to some of our youngsters who are being challenged to grow in their faith. This may also refer to some of the parents as well, especially if a child does not feel well and the service is one of the longer ones of the liturgical year. So what do we do to encourage and support our parents and children during these tough times?
Everyone has had one of those days, so that means that everyone can relate to this situation. In which case, parents should not be left alone to deal with a child having a rough day. Sometimes a child responds better when another adult steps in to assist and comfort the child, whether inside or for a brief period outside.
At no time is threatening, hitting or otherwise "punishing" a child for their inability to remain focused and attentive throughout an entire service appropriate. Many adults can't remain attentive throughout an entire service and they aren't punished. It is all part of spiritual development.
The more you encourage the child to be involved in the service, for example, through lighting candles (with appropriate supervision), singing with the congregation, venerating icons and taking Communion, the more the child will look forward to their time in church as opposed to something that is forced upon them as some kind of discipline.
Parents - Look after your children. Know where they are and with whom they are with at all times. Support one another as you experience different challenges of "growth spurts." Remember you are NOT the only one who has gone through this before.
Encourage your children to pick up after themselves and if they are too young, clean up their messes. Remember you are in God's house and He is not going to “clean up after your children.” God wants all of His children present in His house always. Parents should NEVER feel as though they can't bring their children to church. You have a very special and unique ministry as parents. It is just as important for your spiritual growth that you attend services, as for your child's.
SNACKS - children 0-2 years old may need to have small snacks like crackers, juice, Cheerios during service, but it should not be an all-out meal or should the evidence be left for everyone to see what they were snacking on. By the time children are 3-4 years old, children should be able to go through the Liturgy without eating anything. By the time they reach 7-8 years old, they should begin fasting on Sunday morning for communion (or at least make an attempt at fasting by cutting back on the amount or type of breakfast and eating for "fasting" type foods - you may want to talk to Father about this).
For children who do get snacks, please don't feed them while in line for Holy Communion (this applies to holy bread as well). They need to approach the chalice without food in their mouths.
Two items that apply to both children and adult-chewing gum is a NO-NO.
TOYS – this is church NOT daycare or play school. It is understandable that young children may want to bring something with them to church.
When choosing an appropriate toy, please be sure that does not squeak or rattle. Usually, a small stuffed animal, doll or appropriate book is best and should be limited to one item. This way the child will have the other hand free to make the sign of the cross. Items such as coloring books, crayons, action figures, cars and the like generally lead to more distraction.