My husband teases me about being “an old Lutheran.” In this day of universal informality, lots of decency and manners seem to have gone out of style, even in church. Perhaps it is the floor plan of our church, but I can’t help but notice that people don’t seem to observe what was once known as proper etiquette when it comes to their late entrances to the worship service. What is considered proper now? Am I just an old-fashioned Lutheran?
Before we sat down to answer your question, we checked with the staff of our LCMS Commission on Worship. Yes, they acknowledged, things often are more casual today, as with so many aspects of our life. Yet, they reminded us, out of respect for the service and consideration for other worshipers, it’s still good to observe some “old-fashioned” guidelines when one enters a church after the service has begun.
What are those guidelines?
In his Usher Handbook (Augsburg, 1990), Ralph R. Van Loon notes that, traditionally, latecomers never enter the nave during times of silence, prayer, or while the lessons or the Gospel are being read. Instead, appropriate times to quietly find a seat—or be ushered to a seat—include the Prelude, the day’s announcements, a hymn, or a liturgical song.
Van Loon wrote his book as a help for ushers. But his advice is a good reminder for all of us. The goal, of course, is to accommodate and welcome those of us who have arrived late while disturbing our fellow worshipers as little as possible.
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