St Anthony of the Desert

Orthodox Christian Mission

Las Cruces, New Mexico

Fr Gabriel

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Thoughts on Decorum

What’s the difference between a proper sense of relationship to God and chumminess that borders on the silly?  While on vacation, we attended worship at a local church.  The repartee before the service signaled, at least to me, too chummy a relationship with God.  It made me think that what was about to happen would not bear any life-or-death consequences.   Given such a pretense of ease, who would think that we could be at the throne of the Creator of heaven and earth?

I see no reason for words before the liturgy begins unless there is some genuine necessity.  I don’t really want words of a light-hearted nature intended to make visitors feel welcome and comfortable.  That sort of banter usually has the opposite effect on me.  I become embarrassed and uncomfortable; I have on occasion even blushed, not for myself but for the awkwardness of the situation.

All right:  I would agree that excessive formality feels priggish and fastidious, and we also want to avoid those two signs of aloofness.

There is a kind of informality in church, however, that becomes unintentionally silly and communicates something I can’t allow: a sense of entitlement to a relationship with God as an equal, as if God were the corner druggist or your local bartender magnified in scale.  I’d rather err on the side of majesty and mystery.  That may be an inadequate attempt to honor God, as are all attempts, but at least it does not communicate that God is a roly-poly Santa Claus in the sky.

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