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Late for Church

Arriving Late for Church Service

Late for Church

A very helpful manual is being compiled by Ben Myers about church attendance. He begins by providing a sample of what to do if you arrive late for a service for different denominations:

Roman Catholic
What to do: Make your way to a seat promptly but discreetly. Before joining in the liturgy you must do a quick spiritual catch-up. This involves several seconds of kneeling. Anywhere between five and eight seconds is acceptable (less than five seconds would be disrespectful; more than eight would be a mark of pride or fanaticism). Under no circumstances may you join in the liturgy until this catch-up has been performed.
What to think: “Honestly though, it really doesn’t matter if I’m late as long as the priest is on time.”

What to do: Same as the above, except that the spiritual catch-up is performed in an attitude of mild-mannered English contrition. You are not only catching up, but are also expressing regret for having behaved in a discreditable way.
What to think: “I am ashamed for being late, but not as ashamed as I look.”

What to do: If you enter while someone is saying a prayer, you should stand just inside the doorway like a soldier at attention. You may not relax this posture until the prayer is ended, at which time you should march briskly all the way to the front row and sit down, head held high. You are not Catholic; you have nothing to be ashamed of.
What to think: “Even lateness can be a virtue when it is done decently and in order.”

What to do: It is easy to make yourself inconspicuous as long as you arrive during those parts of the service (i.e., nearly all of it) in which everyone is milling about. Kiss the icon as quick as you can and try to blend in. Maintain a deadpan expression so as not to attract attention. If for any reason you have to enter while everybody is standing still and paying attention – during the Gospel reading, for example – it is probably better to stay outside and smoke another cigarette while you wait for the milling-about to resume.
What to think: “I wonder if Michael and Eleni will be coming for lunch today. I forgot to check if we have enough wine. I ought to stop by for a few bottles on the way home. Four bottles, just to be safe.”

What to do: Stroll in, look around amicably, give somebody a high-five, greet a few people and exchange remarks about sports while you are looking around for a seat. Sit down, put your feet up, and check your phone for messages before joining in the next song.
What to think: “I wonder if anyone will notice if I stick my gum under this chair.”

African American church
What to do: Park your car. Sit there for a few moments contemplating the looks you will receive when you come in late. Think about what you’ve done. What would your mother say if she could see you now? Then start the engine and drive straight home again.
What to think: “I will probably go to hell for this.”

Messy Church
What to do: If the other kids have taken all the crayons, reach across and grab the ones you want. You can also push one of the smaller kids out of his chair if you want to sit there. But don’t try pushing Jack’s little brother or he might start trying to bite you again.
What to think: “If that girl doesn’t give me the blue crayon, I’m going to kick her in the shins. My picture of Jesus is going to be the best.”

What to do: The important thing is to demonstrate your spiritual vitality as you make your way to your seat. Sing with boisterous abandon as you walk, give your arms a little wave, shoot a few joy-of-the-Lord smiles at other worshippers as you pass them in the aisle. Upon taking your seat, it is also permissible to speak loudly in tongues for a few seconds, or to call out hallelujah, as a way of formally announcing your arrival.
What to think: “I’m only late because I was doing something even more spiritual before I got here.”

What to do: Whatever you feel like. There is no difference between this church service and any other gathering of like-minded individuals.
What to think: “I think that woman is looking askance at me. Is it because I’m arriving forty minutes late? Some of these people still haven’t freed themselves from their old institutional hangups. I’m sick of being treated like this. I really need to find a more inclusive community.”

Fresh expressions
What to do: Come on in, pour yourself a coffee, give someone a hug, find an armchair, make yourself comfortable, update your Facebook status on your phone. Then greet everyone and begin to lead the service.
What to think: “I am late in order to challenge stereotypes and to get people out of their comfort zones.”

The whole resource is here.

Today is the Fifth Day of Easter.
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1 thought on “Arriving Late for Church Service”

  1. The general attitude of Russians seems to be that there’s way more church than anyone can go to anyway, so if it’s the weekend, and you want to go, someone will be doing some sort of service. Show up whenever you get there, and leave when you feel done.

    I once saw someone show up ten minutes before the end of the service, and leave five minutes later, having apparently prayed what he came to pray.

    I’m not quite sure whether this attitude is good or bad.

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