By: Nick “Tapobu” Rohlf
So-called “worship-music” sessions are fairly common. More than likely, you’ve gone to at least one in your lifetime. While some of us have gotten used to more modern, “new-age” forms of worship, those of us from more traditional backgrounds may act a bit more startled or uncomfortable around the amount of personal expression exhibited by members of a congregation.
In case you are one who is unsure about how to react, here are a few important rules that will help you blend in. Or perhaps stand out. Whichever you’d prefer.
- When you enter your church or chapel, do so with arms held out in front of you as a signal that you are ready for the Holy Spirit to wash over you and fill you with a desire to sing, pray, and listen.
- As the service begins, be prepared to stand up at a moment’s notice. Standing up during a song implies that the music is speaking especially to you and that you are responding.
- It’s ok to be the first to stand up during a song in a room full of sitting people. There’s a good chance others will join you in a desire to be equally moved. But if they don’t, you are absolutely forbidden from returning to your seat. You will be judged as you rightly should.
- Although it’s ok to be the first standing, it is forbidden above all else to be the last sitting. This means that you are refusing to take part in actual worship with those around you. Though you may be singing, your voice and words mean nothing if you do not stand.
- You can sing loudly if you are capable, but not too loudly. It’s one thing to be visibly moved by the Spirit. It’s entirely another thing to be so moved that you drown out someone else’s sacred experience.
- It is currently undecided whether it is acceptable to raise your hands while singing. While it is rightly believed by some that one’s hands are closer to God while raised, many churches still view raised hands with great suspicion. If you are in such an environment, hand-raising may well be viewed as an act of civil disobedience and judged accordingly. Proceed with caution.
- When the lead singer stops to pray, you absolutely must lower your head. The folding of one’s hands, however, is entirely optional. Hand-folding is, after all, rather traditional, and you do not want to be accused of going through the motions. Do whatever feels comfortable for you, just so long as you don’t make a big deal about it. No peeking to see if your neighbor is awed by your impressively non-conformist hand-folding (though they probably are).
Though this short article covers the major rules and faux-pas of group worship, there are many other minor rules that will most likely change slightly from church to church. As long as you remember the big stuff, however, you probably will be forgiven for the little mistakes that will doubtless occurred. Best of luck and may God aid you in your attempts at communal worship.