Archive for the ‘Church Services’ Category

Today is the first Sunday of Advent (What is Advent?)

November 28, 2010

Traditionally, Advent is celebrated with readings and prayers from the Bible and lighting of Advent candles, in church or at home.  I like to devote a moment each Sunday evening in Advent for a moment of quiet meditation by candlelight.  It is a nice way to start the week, as the holidays begin to roll around.

If you would like to see the readings for the first Sunday in Advent (today), you can find them here.  Or, alternatively, read something that you find personally meaningful, or reflect on the ways you will find peace and spread joy this holiday season.

From Wikipedia

Advent (from the Latin word adventus meaning “coming“) is a season observed in many Western Christian churches, a time of expectant waiting and preparation for the celebration of the Nativity of Jesus at Christmas. It is the beginning of the Western liturgical year and commences on Advent Sunday, called Levavi. The Eastern churches’ equivalent of Advent is called the Nativity Fast, but it differs both in length and observances and does not begin the church year, which starts instead on September 1.[1]

The progression of the season may be marked with an Advent calendar, a practice introduced by German Lutherans. At least in the Roman Catholic, Lutheran and Anglican calendars, Advent starts on the fourth Sunday before December 25, the Sunday from November 27 to December 3 inclusive.

Latin adventus is the translation of the Greek word parousia, commonly used in reference to the Second Coming of Christ. Christians believe that the season of Advent serves a reminder both of the original waiting that was done by the Hebrews for the birth of their Messiah as well as the waiting of Christians for Christ’s return.

The Advent wreath, or Advent crown, is a Christian tradition that symbolizes the passage of the four weeks of Advent in the liturgical calendar of the Western church. It is usually a horizontal evergreen wreath with four candles. Beginning with the First Sunday of Advent, the lighting of a candle can be accompanied by a Bible reading and prayers. An additional candle is lit during each subsequent week until, by the last Sunday before Christmas, all four candles are lit. Some Advent wreaths include a fifth, “Christ” candle which can be lit at Christmas. The custom is observed both in family settings and at public church services.




Event: Christmas Services at National Cathedral this weekend

December 17, 2009

Visit the National Cathedral on Saturday December 19 at 2 p.m. for a Christmas Pageant especially for children.  Children are invited to dress as shepherds, angels, or animals and participate.  On the day of the event, please be in the nave by 1:30 pm for a brief rehearsal before the pageant. The pageant will begin at 2 pm and last approximately one hour. Join us for this wonderful telling of the true meaning of Christmas.

On Sunday, December 20, at 4 p.m., there will be a Candlelight Carol Service.

The Vespers service which is held at 4 p.m. on Christmas Day.  This is a lovely, quiet service (there is some singing) and a beautiful way to end Christmas Day.  It is well-attended, but not nearly as crowded as the Christmas Eve service (for which tickets are required) and other services and concerts.  After the service, at 5:15 p.m., there is an organ recital.

You could bring children to Vespers, but I would not recommend it.  The atmosphere is hushed and solemn, and there is a sermon (which has always been wonderful, but it is not geared to children).  I think a child would be pretty unhappy and  restless, and wouldn’t you be, too, after all the excitement of Christmas day? I only go on the alternate years when I don’t have my son at Christmas.

If you have kids, and you want to bring them to the National Cathedral for a service, then consider the children’s service today, or bring them to see the exhibit of creches anytime the Cathedral is open for visitors.  My son really enjoys that.  Then let them blow off some steam in the gardens, just adjacent to the Cathedral building!

Church Etiquette for the Holidays

December 11, 2009

National Cathedral Photograph

Many people attend services or concerts in churches during the holidays, and the churches are very glad to have visitors and newcomers.  Because some people are not accustomed to church, however, they sometimes behave in ways that are considered irreverent.  Not being a regular church goer, I am as guilty of forgetting or ignorance as anyone else, so I know we all have something to learn about how to show respect to our neighbors and to the house we enter, especially during the holidays.

Even if the customs are not yours, it is good manners to respect them.  This is especially true for historic churches that are open to visitors and for the National Cathedral here in Washington, DC.  It is considered polite to show reverence for the church and its parishioners, even if you do not adhere to that faith.  To save embarrassment or accidental offense to others, here are some reminders.

Doff Your Hat

In winter, people wear hats more frequently.  Men and boys should remove their hats before entering a church (and it should remain off until you are outside), even if you are visiting a historic church as a tourist.  That includes baseball hats and knit caps.  By the way, it is also good manners to remove your hat in an elevator, restaurant, and while indoors, and it is considered inappropriate for a man not to remove his hat during the National Anthem.

If a woman is wearing any type of hat but a formal hat, she should also remove her hat.  A woman is not obliged to remove her formal hat in church (or during the National Anthem, at a concert, or in a restaurant), unless the hat is blocking the view of someone, although she may.  For more hat etiquette, please read this helpful post at

Keep a Respectful Silence

Very commonly, I see people holding whispered or hushed conversations while seated in the sanctuary of the church, for example, just before a concert or service.  I have done it myself.  However, I have learned since that it is considered impolite, as other people are often quietly praying at that time, or otherwise mentally preparing themselves for the service.  So silence should be kept.

In the sanctuary, electronic devices should be turned off, including cell phones and hand-held games.

Do Not Take Photographs

In many churches, you may not photograph or videotape a service, including a holiday service or wedding, without permission. In some cases, photography during a service is forbidden.  Often, there will be posted reminders.  If you would like to take photographs of a children’s pageant, service, or the holiday decorations before or after the service, please ask one of the vestry if you may do so before you snap the picture.  Usually flash photography is not permitted.

Mind Your Children

Usually the greatest offenders I see in church are adults, rather than children.  But I have also seen instances where parents allowed their children to run and play in the sanctuary during Christmas services and weddings.

Any baby in arms (who can’t walk) has immunity 🙂 although you would want to leave the sanctuary to comfort your howling baby.  The occasional baby gurgle or babble is expected in church.  However, I would question the value of bringing toddlers and young children to a service or concert that is organized for adults, if the child is too young to attend to and benefit from the sermon, or if they need to be entertained (with crayons or books) in order to remain quiet in the pews with their parents.  (This is only my personal view, not a commonly accepted form of etiquette.)  To me, that just seems to be asking for trouble, and it’s not fair to the children who would understandably become restless and bored.  If there is no children’s program or child care at the church where you can leave your child during a service or concert, consider leaving your children at home in the care of a sitter or relative.  Most churches offer at least one family service during the holidays.

Do Not Eat or Chew Gum

With the exception of Communion, you shouldn’t eat, drink, or chew gum in a sanctuary, or allow your children to do so.  If you need a cough drop, then unwrap it before you enter the sanctuary.  If you need more than one to get through the service, come back to church when you are well!

Miscellaneous Tips

When in doubt, look at what others are doing!  When a prayer is spoken, it is the custom to bow your head.

It’s considered impolite to cross your legs during a service.  You should also dress modestly when visiting a church.

Refrain from resting your feet on the kneelers.

It is considered impolite to leave the sanctuary before being dismissed by the priest, rector, or preacher.  In Catholic and Episcopal churches, it is additionally the custom to wait for the priest (or rector) to depart (commonly down the center aisle), and for the recessional hymn to end, before leaving the pew.

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