Saturday 20 September 2014

Church attendance manual (3): "Please be seated"

When attending church, it is important to understand that certain seemingly familiar liturgical instructions can have different shades of meaning in different traditions. The instruction, please be seated, is one of the most common yet also most easily understood of all liturgical formulae. You will be spared a great deal of confusion and embarrassment if you observe these guidelines when attending a service of worship in one of the following liturgical settings. Please be seated means:

Mainline protestant
Please stop standing and sit down.

Please stop kneeling and sit up.

Please stop lying on the floor and return to your seats.

Please come down from the rafters and return to your seats.

Tent revival
Now that you all have Jesus in your hearts, you may leave the altar and return to your seats.

Once you've stopped chatting among yourselves, please feel free to find a seat. Whenever you're ready, folks, whenever you're ready...

A cruel joke (there are no seats).

Fresh expressions
An ironic joke (there are nothing but seats).

Oops. I can't believe I just said that out loud.

What an insensitive thing to say. Words like this simply perpetuate cultural stereotypes and the hegemony of able-bodied discourse. The congregation's constant uncertainty about whether to stand or sit is a small price to pay for our moral superiority.
Inner city mission
For pity's sake, Johnno, could you please stop heckling the preacher and sit down!

Rural parish
You can both sit down now.

School chapel
That's my final warning, boys.

Sunday school
Oh hell – they're starting to riot – oh hell – I've completely lost control

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