When to kneel, when to stand

When I started going to RC church, my local parish church had the practice of kneeling after the Sanctus (which is pretty universal, if people are to kneel at all - otherwise people just stay standing for all of the Eucharistic prayer as they did at my university's RC ministry - although this may have been in part because we didn't have any kneelers or cushions where we met for Mass). People would stand after the Amen at the end of the Eucharistic Prayer and kneel again after the Agnus Dei and before the "Behold the Lamb of God/Ecce Agnus Dei." In the US at least, this is pretty normal (although in Europe I have observed RC churches where people stand back up again after the words of institution).

Where there is great variation in RC parishes in the US is when people stop kneeling after kneeling again at the "Behold the Lamb of God." Some people kneel until they go up to receive communion then sit upon returning to their pew. Other people kneel for a short prayer when they return to their pew then sit. Still others keep kneeling until the unconsumed consecrated hosts are put in the tabernacle, and others keep kneeling until the presiding priest sits down. Lastly, there are those who keep kneeling until the priest says "Let us pray" leading into the prayer after communion. I got into the practice of doing the latter because I noticed that that was what those who stayed kneeling after returning to their pew tended to do at my local parish church way back when.

But as I have traveled, I have noticed that there are some churches where almost everyone sits when the tabernacle is closed or when the priest sits, so I feel a bit ostentatious by continuing to kneel. And then there are the parishes where everyone does their own thing and it is hard to even identify when a plurality of congregants stop kneeling. At these places, I find myself looking around to see at any moment who, besides myself, is still kneeling, and I feel guilty for feeling like it is a competition. I am not sure whether to keep kneeling because I am doing it out of my own devotion (or so I would like to think) and I should not care what others do, or to force myself to sit because continuing to kneel makes me feel a sinful sense of pride (and trust me, I am far from a very pious person. I tend to fetishize the Liturgy and what one does during it (as you can probably tell), so just about everything I do at Mass feels calculated even when it shouldn't be, down to whatever my hands are doing at any given time (why doesn't the GIRM have detailed instructions for the congregation regarding this?!?!?!?!?!?! :smiley: )).

Worst of all are the parishes where the priest gives the announcements after communion but before the prayer after the communion. Doesn't he know that I am waiting for him to say "Let us pray" so I can stop kneeling and not feel awkward about it? Usually the priest does not say "Please be seated" prior to beginning the announcements when they precede the Prayer After Communion (maybe because "Please be seated" is something you usually say when people are standing?).

What do you think? Should there be rules about this sort of thing (or, in other words, "improved liturgical catechesis of the laity") so that kneeling or not kneeling when others act differently does not make one self-conscious to an extent that it distracts from worship? (And you Orthodox that don't have kneeling on Sunday (am I right?) aren't off the hook - I can't tell you how distracting it is to have no idea how often I should be crossing myself during an Orthodox service and being unable to decide which of my fellow congregants to follow because everyone seems to be doing something different! :smiley: )
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Comments

  • EnochEnoch Shipmate
    Why does it matter whether everybody does everything in unison, what everybody else is doing round you or whether you are doing the same thing at the same moment as they are? I agree that as human beings, we don't want to stand out, but that's not entirely laudable. What does your spirit within you want to do?

  • GalilitGalilit Shipmate
    edited November 2020
    It matters because
    1. An individual may have personal preferences and feel uncomfortable doing them if "everybody" is doing something else. Or not doing them because nobody else seems to be and then feeling awkward in oneself.
    2. Most people feel more comfortable doing what other people are doing. And would like to know what that is beforehand. ("Let us be seated"
    3. Some individuals see liturgy as a bit of a ballet and find it distracting and disorienting (polite words) if there's no obvious consensus and there are no Directions from the Front. Worse still, if it looks like many of the people have no idea what to do, when or why. But, for example: if I see people nodding or bowing at the Name of Jesus I think to myself (quite kindly and inclusively ) "A-ha! One of those; how lovely! I'll join them so they feel less weird"

    Quote: I tend to fetishize the Liturgy and what one does during it
    You're far from the only one! Crumbs! I even do those things when I'm watching a livestream at home on my laptop! Long live the "type"!
  • In this order:
    1) Do what makes you feel comfortable in your worship;
    2) Do what will make everyone else feel comfortable.

    Obviously, these will overlap (standing while everyone else is kneeling may make everyone else uncomfortable, and that will make you uncomfortable) but you should not come out of church feeling that you haven't given God everything you should (so if in your understanding that part of the liturgy requires you to stand rather than just preferring it, then stand).
  • During our Covid reduced, socially distanced Masses our priest has asked everyone to remain seated right through Mass. It has contributed greatly to the strangeness of Masses where singing has already been forbidden.
    At some point in the fairly recent past a priest removed the solid oak, architect designed pews and replaced them with stacking chairs so we no longer kneel, but sit instead.
    And in France the norm seems to be to stand throughout the Eucharistic Prayer and to bow at the words of institution.
    I can't say that any of this bothers me too much as long as I know what to do.
    But I do allow myself a slight chuckle at ecumenical services when at the invitation "Let us pray" half the congregation leaps to its feet while the other half falls to it knees.
  • We also are tending to remain seated for the majority of the mass. Weekday services find the congregation standing only for the gospel - mind you, at 69 I'm usually the youngest there! Sunday services are now tending more towards pre-COVID normal, depending upon which of our three centres you attend, as one is almost all seated, one standing for the gospel, creed and benediction and the third is almost back to full routine, including communion in one kind kneeling at the rail, rather than standing socially distanced below the chancel step.
  • 1. In the absence of direction do what you find most comfortable.

    2. Message to people drawing up Orders of Service: include rubrics for posture if your church has a preference or "norm".
  • First of all, if in doubt, and there is a server who is not actively serving at that point, do what that server is doing. It is part of their role to 'lead' the congregation in this way.

    If all servers are busy, then there are, normally, people in the congregation who 'lead'. The appointment of such people is usually a decision of the congregation and are people who are seen as knowing the rite. The congregation do not ask if you are such a person, they just start following you. Unfortunately, on occasions, a congregation is quite capable of selecting a visitor rather than a regular. Even more worrying if that person has a personal devotional practice. If they are conscientious then they are faced with a dilemma. They either have to give up the practice or it tends to spread through the congregation. I am speaking as one to whom this has happened. I normally follow my personal devotional practice hoping that soon enough they will attend a mass where I am not present. This is because:
    a) I am also honouring someone who has died who influenced me greatly
    b) I feel really uncomfortable if I do not
  • 2. Message to people drawing up Orders of Service: include rubrics for posture if your church has a preference or "norm".

    Slight tangent: did anyone else grow up with orders of service with little silhouettes at each change in posture?
  • I found in Spain that half or more of the congregation stood throughout the entire canon. A minority knelt after the Sanctus-- as that was close to what Archdeacon Bradley told us to do in confirmation classes at the end of the 1960s, I blended in with minority practice. Asking one of my few practising Spanish friends about this, she replied that people did what they felt like doing and if they had a problem with the others, they kept it to themselves. She pointed out that they had civil wars at the drop of a hat, and so had learned to mind their own business.
  • EnochEnoch Shipmate
    I agree with the Spanish on this. Attending Sunday worship isn't a military drill, formation dancing or synchronised swimming. Nobody, whether ecclesiastic or fellow pew occupier has any right to expect other people to treat it as though it is or to disapprove of those that don't.

  • Although as someone who enjoys the synchronized swimming approach to liturgy, I find the experience is enhanced when everyone around you is doing the same things. It feels more like a cohesive act of corporate worship than when you've got some sitting, some standing, some kneeling. Not enough for me to actually attempt to impose on other people, but it's nice when it happens.
  • ... though as a person of various muscle, bone and joint issues, I'm really glad nobody's hassling me to keep up with the calisthenics. I've heard from too many fellow church members who do worry about this, when they have perfectly good reasons to sit still.
  • 2. Message to people drawing up Orders of Service: include rubrics for posture if your church has a preference or "norm".
    ... though as a person of various muscle, bone and joint issues, I'm really glad nobody's hassling me to keep up with the calisthenics. I've heard from too many fellow church members who do worry about this, when they have perfectly good reasons to sit still.
    With regard to both of these posts, it’s long been the norm in these parts—at least among my tribe, but also in my experience, among other tribes—to note in the bulletin where to stand or, for those who do so with any regularity, kneel. It’s common, for example, for an asterisk to indicate “stand.”

    But I’ve noticed a trend in recent years, which is that the note explaining the asterisk, and that used to say something basic like “Stand,” now says “Those who are able may stand” or “Please stand in body or spirit.”

  • LydaLyda Shipmate
    When I read the title of this thread, I remembered the old American Piskie rule of thumb from my childhood: stand to praise (singing) and for the Gospel, kneel to pray, and sit to listen and learn (Bible lessons and the homily). Of course, most of the kneeling has gone by the wayside these days- just in time for mercy to my knees. :wink:
  • The monks of the (Anglican) Community of the Resurrection re-ordered their church a few years ago, and now sit in individual stalls, without the usual 'prayer-desk' arrangement in front. Their custom is to sit for psalms and other similar parts of the liturgy, and to stand for everything else. Admittedly their average age means that body parts are rather creaky (and one or two of them sit for most things), but there is no loss of reverence.
  • ZappaZappa Ecclesiantics Host
    2. Message to people drawing up Orders of Service: include rubrics for posture if your church has a preference or "norm".

    Slight tangent: did anyone else grow up with orders of service with little silhouettes at each change in posture?

    Occasionally I'm thankful I grew up an atheist
  • Lyda wrote: »
    When I read the title of this thread, I remembered the old American Piskie rule of thumb from my childhood: stand to praise (singing) and for the Gospel, kneel to pray, and sit to listen and learn (Bible lessons and the homily). Of course, most of the kneeling has gone by the wayside these days- just in time for mercy to my knees. :wink:

    Being used to RC services, I've often been surprised in other denominations when people stand for the express purpose of singing, as at the offertory hymn. But I haven't really observed places where people stand for the communion hymn. Is this the practice anywhere, or did it used to be? And do people stand up straight from kneeling, or would people have sat down by that point?
  • Galilit wrote: »
    It matters because
    I even do those things when I'm watching a livestream at home on my laptop!

    You mean you're not supposed to? I have wondered whether or not I am committing idolatry or something like it, though, by doing things normally only done in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament when in fact I am only looking at an image of the Blessed Sacrament on the screen. I'm sure some doctoral student has written or is writing something about virtual mass and what the Real Presence means for virtual congregants.
  • Jengie Jon wrote: »
    First of all, if in doubt, and there is a server who is not actively serving at that point, do what that server is doing. It is part of their role to 'lead' the congregation in this way.

    If all servers are busy, then there are, normally, people in the congregation who 'lead'. The appointment of such people is usually a decision of the congregation and are people who are seen as knowing the rite. The congregation do not ask if you are such a person, they just start following you. Unfortunately, on occasions, a congregation is quite capable of selecting a visitor rather than a regular.

    I've noticed the concept of "follow what you see up front" in non-RC churches but more modernly-adorned RC churches the altar party often does not have a kneeler or cushion to kneel on, so they sometimes do not kneel when the rest of the congregation does.

    As for people picking someone else out of the congregation as a role model, this is less true in RC settings, partly because of clericalism and partly because RC's tend to just do what they were taught or what they were able to get away with when they were children. As something between a convert and a revert, I've never had the luxury of just being able to go into Cultural Catholic autopilot.
  • Go with the flow and shrug.
  • Do as you see fit and ignore the glares; actually these days no-one else in the congo cares whether you stand sit or kneel ( unless you hang out with the traddie Triddies).

    And as for “ cultural Catholicism” then if the otherwise-imposed cap fits, then I’m happy to wear it😜
  • Baptist TrainfanBaptist Trainfan Shipmate
    edited November 2020
    Modern UK Baptist worship often begins (though not if I have anything to do with it!) with an extended time of worship singing. In recent years it has been recognised that not everyone wishes/is able to stand throughout, so quite often a verbal instruction to "stand or sit as you prefer" is given. That's fine and intended to make people feel comfortable, however the song words are usually projected, which means those who sit can't see them unless (a) they sit at the very front or (b) printed paper copies are made available (as they should be).
  • Modern UK Baptist worship often begins (though not if I have anything to do with it!) with an extended time of worship singing. In recent years it has been recognised that not everyone wishes/is able to stand throughout, so quite often a verbal instruction to "stand or sit as you prefer" is given. That's fine and intended to make people feel comfortable, however the song words are usually projected, which means those who sit can't see them unless (a) they sit at the very front or (b) printed paper copies are made available (as they should be).

    Another excellent argument for hymnbooks. :naughty:
  • Possibly so, but I'd rather not derail this thread by going up that particular tangent.
  • Leorning CnihtLeorning Cniht Shipmate
    edited November 2020
    Another excellent argument for hymnbooks. :naughty:

    A previous member of our choir used to use a copy of the hymnal on his tablet, which he found easier to read than the hymnal (although they were similar in size). He used to process carrying an open hymnal (like the rest of the choir), but his had his tablet resting on top.

    And in view of the topic of the thread, this did not cause a distraction, because you only really noticed it if you were looking for it.
  • Does anyone here have an opinion on whether, if the congregation is kneeling before coming up for communion, when one should stop kneeling after returning to one's pew (if one receives communion)? Even if you believe it's a personal thing, what do you prefer to do yourself and why?
  • Modern UK Baptist worship often begins (though not if I have anything to do with it!) with an extended time of worship singing. In recent years it has been recognised that not everyone wishes/is able to stand throughout, so quite often a verbal instruction to "stand or sit as you prefer" is given. That's fine and intended to make people feel comfortable, however the song words are usually projected, which means those who sit can't see them unless (a) they sit at the very front or (b) printed paper copies are made available (as they should be).

    Not sure if you would call the flavor of Baptists you are describing liturgical or not, but talking about modern non-liturgical worship in general, is fair to say that it generally does not involve kneeling? If so, when did kneeling begin to be phased out and why? Is it a practical thing, catering to people's tastes, or is it based on theology in some way?
  • Does anyone here have an opinion on whether, if the congregation is kneeling before coming up for communion, when one should stop kneeling after returning to one's pew (if one receives communion)? Even if you believe it's a personal thing, what do you prefer to do yourself and why?

    Depends on how many other communicants have to climb over the top of you to return to their seats....

  • Kneeling after Communion is a very personal thing. Some people prefer to sit in silence, others to bury their heads in their hands.
    In general one should keep in some sort of step with others in the congregation,but allow liberty to others to stand,sit or kneel as they see best.
    Even standing for the Gospel which is almost de rigueur, is difficult for some people.
  • Modern UK Baptist worship often begins (though not if I have anything to do with it!) with an extended time of worship singing. In recent years it has been recognised that not everyone wishes/is able to stand throughout, so quite often a verbal instruction to "stand or sit as you prefer" is given. That's fine and intended to make people feel comfortable, however the song words are usually projected, which means those who sit can't see them unless (a) they sit at the very front or (b) printed paper copies are made available (as they should be).

    Not sure if you would call the flavor of Baptists you are describing liturgical or not, but talking about modern non-liturgical worship in general, is fair to say that it generally does not involve kneeling? If so, when did kneeling begin to be phased out and why? Is it a practical thing, catering to people's tastes, or is it based on theology in some way?

    Anecdote rather than data, but the local churches here (Church of Scotland) were built with pews too close together to allow kneeling. I don't know whether this was a practical choice based on capacity (though as they just pumped the Duke of Argyll for funds they could have just built bigger) or whether kneeling was considered Papist Idolatry or possibly to lead to dancing.
  • .... whether kneeling was considered Papist Idolatry or possibly to lead to dancing.


    Is Outrage™ But which would be the greater outrage?

  • We papists in our place have no kneelers. One or two folk kneel on the floor. Most sit and gaze meaningfully into the middle distance or join in with the singing.
  • EnochEnoch Shipmate
    kingsfold wrote: »
    .... whether kneeling was considered Papist Idolatry or possibly to lead to dancing.


    Is Outrage™ But which would be the greater outrage?
    Don't they both lead to each other, and then to forrrrrnication.

  • Anecdote rather than data, but the local churches here (Church of Scotland) were built with pews too close together to allow kneeling. I don't know whether this was a practical choice based on capacity (though as they just pumped the Duke of Argyll for funds they could have just built bigger) or whether kneeling was considered Papist Idolatry or possibly to lead to dancing.
    The closest pew spacing I ever encountered was in a 1950s-built CofS church in Glasgow. I can't remember if there were kneelers, but I doubt it. Of course people in general were a bit smaller then, but I suspect the main reason was economy. i.e. the maximum number of people in the smallest space. When I went, cramming people in was not a consideration!

    I suspect the people who run certain budget airlines and train companies must have modelled their seating onn that church!

  • The worst thing that ever happened to me (well not quite, but you know) was at a service seated in the chancel where the printed service sheet said to stand when we could see the choir procession approaching. Having keen eyes I saw the procession beginning back down around the end of the nave, so I promptly stood up. No one else stood until the procession arrived at the rood screen. I could feel the eyes of everyone present fixated on me -who is this mentalist? Why did he suddenly stand up? Does he need to be restrained? Does he need help?

    I've never been back there.
  • BroJamesBroJames Purgatory Host, 8th Day Host
    Anecdote rather than data, but the local churches here (Church of Scotland) were built with pews too close together to allow kneeling. I don't know whether this was a practical choice based on capacity (though as they just pumped the Duke of Argyll for funds they could have just built bigger) or whether kneeling was considered Papist Idolatry or possibly to lead to dancing.
    The closest pew spacing I ever encountered was in a 1950s-built CofS church in Glasgow. I can't remember if there were kneelers, but I doubt it. Of course people in general were a bit smaller then, but I suspect the main reason was economy. i.e. the maximum number of people in the smallest space. When I went, cramming people in was not a consideration!

    I suspect the people who run certain budget airlines and train companies must have modelled their seating onn that church!

    I have sat in churches where the gap between my seat back and the back of the seat in front is narrower than the length of my thigh. Admittedly at 6’4” I am quite tall - but really!
  • Of course, lots of theatres are like that, especially in the cheaper seats. I recall uncomfortable evenings at the Nuffield in Southampton and up in the gallery at the old Sadler's Wells, knees wedged formly against both the seatback in front and my neighbours' knees. And the Halliwell Centre in Carmarthen, where we have our yearly Welsh Baptist "do", is simply shocking!
  • Gee DGee D Shipmate
    yohan300 wrote: »
    The worst thing that ever happened to me (well not quite, but you know) was at a service seated in the chancel where the printed service sheet said to stand when we could see the choir procession approaching. Having keen eyes I saw the procession beginning back down around the end of the nave, so I promptly stood up. No one else stood until the procession arrived at the rood screen. I could feel the eyes of everyone present fixated on me -who is this mentalist? Why did he suddenly stand up? Does he need to be restrained? Does he need help?

    I've never been back there.

    That shows the rule I was about to set out: stand, sit or kneel as you like, as long as you make sure you're not the only one doing it.
  • ZappaZappa Ecclesiantics Host
    Unless you're just plain bloody stubborn. NZ Anglicans -who have long since forgotten that kneeling is even a Thing™ - inexplicably drop to their bottoms for the Lord's Prayer when it is used at the end of the Great Prayer of Thanksgiving. I don't [insert roll eyes emoji]. I just can't.-But then neither could I could turn a somersault or scream "Welcome Lord Voldemort/Trump/Cthulhu" at that moment.
  • Zappa wrote: »
    Unless you're just plain bloody stubborn. NZ Anglicans -who have long since forgotten that kneeling is even a Thing™ - inexplicably drop to their bottoms for the Lord's Prayer when it is used at the end of the Great Prayer of Thanksgiving. I don't [insert roll eyes emoji]. I just can't.-But then neither could I could turn a somersault or scream "Welcome Lord Voldemort/Trump/Cthulhu" at that moment.

    Wait - so people sit for the Lord's Prayer? Is sitting considered more of a "prayer posture" than standing, at least among NZ Anglicans? Maybe the memory of "not standing" when praying is stronger than the memory of kneeling when praying? Do people "reverentially sit" at any other point in the service?
  • Of course the "Wee Free" Scottish Presbyterians stand to pray and sit to sing - or so I've heard.
  • Gee DGee D Shipmate
    edited November 2020
    Thought better of what I'd posted, very disrespectful
  • ZappaZappa Ecclesiantics Host

    Wait - so people sit for the Lord's Prayer? Is sitting considered more of a "prayer posture" than standing, at least among NZ Anglicans? Maybe the memory of "not standing" when praying is stronger than the memory of kneeling when praying? Do people "reverentially sit" at any other point in the service?

    "Reverentially sitting" is the NZ Anglican norm at confession, intercession, Lord's Prayer, Agnus Dei and/or Prayer of Humble Access if used, and post-communion. Interestingly a majority - probably - kneeled to receive communion, but that practice, along with Dipping Jesus' Most Precious Body Into His Most Precious Blood was banned at Covid Lockdown and may only partially recover.

    But basically "yes" to your questions.
  • Wait - so people sit for the Lord's Prayer? Is sitting considered more of a "prayer posture" than standing, at least among NZ Anglicans?

    I've known a lot of people who do a sort of hunched over sitting thing for prayer. Something like "I'm thinking about kneeling, but the floor is hard / my legs don't bend / I'm in a shared pew and the other person doesn't want the kneeler down" so they slide forward in the pew and hunch a bit.
  • I've known a lot of people who do a sort of hunched over sitting thing for prayer. Something like "I'm thinking about kneeling, but the floor is hard / my legs don't bend / I'm in a shared pew and the other person doesn't want the kneeler down" so they slide forward in the pew and hunch a bit.
    My wife does that. She has arthritis.

  • In recent years this is the most usual position I have seen in a number of churches.
    My knees creak too much to risk kneeling these days.
  • This is what I generally do since I have some joint and balance issues.
  • Some years ago, this was known as the shampoo position. As I crumble further into decrepitude, I have a growing inclination and sympathy for it.
  • ZappaZappa Ecclesiantics Host
    <snip> they slide forward in the pew and hunch a bit.

    Can be heightened in pious symbolism by combining it with the "pose of the thinker"

  • john holdingjohn holding Ecclesiantics Host, Mystery Worshipper Host
    Thing is, when your forehead actually touches the back of the pew in front, you appear to be sound asleep. Which may or may not be a problem for you. Make sure, however, that the sound of snoring is muted.
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