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You're lucky that your priest preaches after Holy Communion, so that those who need to can slip out. In my wife's Romanian Orthodox parish, the lengthy sermon is preached (in Romanian, of course) right before Communion. If you don't understand the language, tough. You stand there, transferring your weight from one leg to the other, trying to pick out key words, your attention wandering from the icons to the restless children squirming on the floor who are periodically being hushed by headscarved women ... I must confess, I'm prone to resentful thoughts at such times.

Once, after Communion, we were treated to a second, impromptu, discourse by the priest. He spoke for some time and seemed annoyed. I heard him say the word 'copii', 'children', several times. Turned out he was scolding the parents for not keeping their kids quieter. (The Liturgy had begun at 10:00 and we were now well past noon.) I couldn't help thinking "Maybe if you didn't subject the kids to a long sermon in a language that isn't the one most of them encounter in their daily lives - which, reluctant though you may be to face the fact, is English - their noise wouldn't be as much of a problem." See what I mean by resentful thoughts?xD

That said: a quarter of an hour after the Liturgy, when I'm sitting in the hall slurping coffee and munching dumplings prepared by the kind ladies of the congregation, I often find myself feeling ashamed of my earlier narkiness. The world suddenly seems a kinder place!

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We have made a commitment to go to Coffee and Conversation after the liturgy at our Anglican (ACNA) church. Right now we are studying the Lord’s Prayer. Sometimes we study a particular saint.

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I could tell something was off with Hanania and unfollowed him months ago. I follow problematic people on my side, like Cernovich, but Hanania rubbed me the wrong way. He was clearly a hostile force. Had I read into him more maybe I would have picked up on the "Nazi lite" tendencies of his public persona. Somehow all these institutions didn't pick up on what I saw by merely following him on Twitter!

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I saw the tweets about Greear, but didn't look at them, because so much of internet controversy is about the pile on, I didn't read them, and I didn't have time to see the video for myself to make an independent judgment.

You mentioned: "Christian worship is not supposed to be a bespoke, individualized experience. Without meaning to, I had let it become that with me. I needed coffee hour to bring me out of my own head."

I'm Anglican, and I agree with this, although, I must say that sometimes the sermons speak to me as an individual dealing with universal experiences that we all share, and this is reinforced in the coffee hour.

All the baked goodies I love to make but shouldn't eat? I'm happy to share with my neighbors.

We share in the Eucharist during the service, and we share in the offerings at coffee hour.

I chat with the other folks about our lives, the things we're doing, what's happening in the church community, the outreach projects the church is organizing, the sermon, and current events. We have meetings to chat about church business.

I would never dream of missing it, and sometimes I'm around the last to leave.

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Aug 5, 2023·edited Aug 5, 2023

"Is that what these megachurch liturgies do? I’m not asking rhetorically. I’ve never been to one. If they are, then what form do they seek? "

I was a long-time member of the largest Evangelical Presbyterian Church in Colorado. The average attendance was over 4000, spread amongst three Sunday morning worship services. Eventually a Saturday evening service was added.

The service followed the typical informal Protestant order of worship that many denominations use. There were the announcements, a prayer, four or so "praise" songs, and then a prayer and preaching and dismissal. Mostly gone was some of the formality that I remember as a child: the doxology, recital of the Apostles' Creed, responsive readings, the singing of the great hymns of the faith.

The larger churches, like the one I referenced above, can afford professional musicians - and they are very good. There are no solos by someone who can't carry a tune, as I remember in smaller churches. Once the church built a mockup of the "Holy of Holies" for a sermon series and it took up the entire stage. Large screens were positioned so that congregants in the far reaches of the "worship center" (no longer called a sanctuary) can see the pastor. Direct interaction with the pastor after the service was rare. He usually remained up front after the service when everyone left for their cars.

For me, the selection of a church has mostly been about how good the preaching is. Is it faithful to the unashamed proclamation of the gospel? Is it expository? Are the tough topics addressed? The rest to me is decoration. Except when it isn't. When we sing an old hymn of the faith (old meaning an 1800s' style Fanny J. Crosby hymn like "Blessed Assurance"), I weep because it brings back memories of a simpler time. This is important. The older hymns are my links to the past. The new generation of young Protestants knows nothing of them. They know the Hillsong, Elevation, or Bethel music.

I have attended Catholic services. I had no idea what was going on. Sit, kneel, stand - everyone seemed to know what to do without being prompted. I did like the sermon (or whatever Catholics call it).

I think Catholics and the Orthodox are more aware of the sacred. Once when I was in Kiev in the 1990s I wandered into an Orthodox church with my hat on. An old woman corrected me, I apologized (in English) and removed my cap. Now I see men in church, including those on stage, wearing ball hats. Church used to be an occasion to dress up. Now nearly anything goes.

Just a week or two ago, a congregant at my church emailed the preacher because the service went over the time limit by a few minutes. I'm reminded of the poor cultures where gathering in church can be an all day affair. These believers have nothing better to do than attend church! Amen.

It's hard to be critical of any church where the gospel is taught and people lift up their voices to God in music and in solemn prayer. God uses that, despite the ceremony that we may attach to all of it.

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Would it be a good idea to send two separate posts when dealing with two completely separate topics--like today's Hananian/Hoste and church etiquette? Having two entirely unrelated topics in one post makes the comment section feel schizophrenic.

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I read the Hanania post that Rod linked to and a couple of other pieces, and it’s clear to me that Hanania’s biggest problem is that he’s an asshole.

His views on Down Syndrome remind me of how the topic of DS brings out the worst in so many people. Many years ago Rod posted a story on his TAC blog about a high school that voted a young lady with DS as their homecoming queen. The comments section was riddled with indignation that a group of high school students treated a person with a disability as an equal. One commenter kept concern-trolling that the beautiful people were cheated out of their due, and oh the humanity!

It also astounds me that calling for mass abortion of “defective” spawn doesn’t disqualify someone from being a public “intellectual”, but racism does. To me, prejudice against people with disabilities and prejudice against people of different skin colors come from the same fetid moral sewer.

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On being late for church and slipping out early: In all the years (decades, really) that I attended Protestant Evangelical churches, including the 20 or so years that I was a member of a megachurch, I never noticed large groups of people habitually leaving early. In fact, the only people I remember leaving services early from my youth were doctors in the congregation when they'd occasionally get paged or parents who had a kid get sick in the nursery. You always stuck until the end.

People might show up late, of course, but even then it wasn't ever that late. No more than 10 or 15 minutes, max. If you were going to be later than that, you just turned around and went home. So late (but not too late) yes. Leave early? You or somebody you were responsible for better have taken ill.

One of the weirdest things about Orthodoxy for me (and Orthodoxy can be plenty weird!) as a Protestant is how people seem to come and go as they please. I've been regularly attending at a Greek Orthodox parish in Lexington and it still trips me out to know that no matter how late I show up, I'll still beat at least half of the congregation to the pews. And I'm not talking 10- 15 minute Protestant Late. People routinely roll in 25 or 30 minutes late.

And then, of course, they bail right after Communion. A lot of them head on over to the fellowship hall for the coffee hour, but quite a few head on out to the parking lot.

I usually leave then too. Come forward, get my blessing since I can't take the Host as I'm not converted yet, and just keep walking out the door with a third or more of the congregation. The times I do go back to the pews to stick to the end for announcements and the benediction, it's amazing how empty the place is. Still weird in relation to my Protestant upbringing, but that's how the Orthodox roll around here.

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Having attended many mega-church services in my life before moving to Reformed Presbyterianism and then, ultimately, Catholicism, I agree they need to be criticized for promoting the "worship as entertainment" mentality. The lights, the sound systems, the worship singers belting out intense ballads, the smoke machines, etc all add to the concert-like feel of these church services. Not to mention the jumbo screens that feature a digital countdown to the start of service. Many of these churches have high-production value video footage, too, that they show as a part of every service. Interviews with parishioners, interviews with the pastor's wife about her new book, upcoming events at the church, etc. So, no wonder people aren't treating church with reverance and respect. For decades, now, mega-churches have promoted "being relevant to the culture" and "come as you are", and competing with one another to be the biggest and the flashiest. It's all become so man-centered that it's not surprising people don't take it seriously. Also, the abandoning by Protestants of the moral obligation to go to church on Sundays has been a disaster, I think, because then it becomes a personal choice based on feelings rather than on a realization that we have a moral duty and a fundamental need to worship God even if we don't feel like it on any given week. Ironically, it's actually very freeing to "have" to go every Sunday.

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In Orthodox churches the coming later and leaving early depends on what the priest allows. Our

priest's rules are no receiving the Eucharist if arriving after the Gospel reading and no leaving early. I have heard that the Greeks are more lax about that than the Antiochians but my experience is limited.

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Would it be a sin for an Orthodox person to take a caffeine pill with their water before the divine Liturgy? I am seeing it as medicinal here.

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Participating in ritual is an ordering of our will towards God. The church prescribes the gestures and motions and we acknowledge by our response that there is a mediator between us and God.

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I moved recently to a Greek island which is half Catholic (very unusual), and I’ve always wondered what Greek people are doing wandering in and out of the Divine Liturgy, which seems to last half of the day. They go inside, kiss icons, stand around, then walk out, light a cigarette, chit chat in the courtyard while the pappas (the priest) chants inside, wander in again, kiss some more icons. Then after it’s all over (and you never know when that will be), they gather around for a great Sunday barbecue (souvlaki, grilled vegetables, potatoes, etc.) with the pappas, and the entire village. It’s all absolutely wonderful and mysterious to a Catholic from Asia, still struggling with the Greek language and not especially keen on souvlaki. I find the Greek Orthodox Mass less formal for the laity. As you said, one can just wander in and out for coffee or a cigarette. No one will notice or care.

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Quote: "The important question is: what does the performance do to, and for, the people who observe it?"

I have never attended a megachurch, but when much younger, I attended non-denominational churches that could have as many as 500 people. Yes, it was a "performance".....but....here is what I got that I would not get in an Orthodox service.

Stick with me - I prefer a service with the liturgy...but here is what I got.

Worship: A few songs ("This is the day"...for instance...horrible song) were bad. But the meditative songs were wonderful. Raising hands and feeling as if God was there in a special way. Later I came to believe in the real presence in communion. But as a young woman, the time God was most present was in those very special songs. Liturgical congregations try, but they just don't permit the emotional songs that were used in "performance" churches. Also, you participate in the "raise hands/clap" churches. Physical action.

The sermon: Actually, this required a good preacher. If it is good, going over 15 minutes is often good. Like a novel vs. a short story. When I attend Catholic churches, the sermon is usually not as good as the ones I used to hear in "performance" churches. Anglican sermons can, not infrequently, exceed those of "performance" churches.

Certainty: This is true for Orthodox and "Performance". Certainty that truth is in the Bible, that it is a place people can go to find what is true. Very reassuring - a life without this certainty is much more difficult. I don't find this certainty in mainline (including Episcopal) or even Catholic churches anymore.

I could write a whole separate post on why I think liturgical services offer more. But it really comes down to the real presence, that is the main thing. And repetition of the beautiful words of the liturgy. They get down into the depths of your self-conscious. When I became Catholic, after a time, I rarely had nightmares, whereas I had plenty while Protestant.

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I’m so glad you got to the Dominion Tom Holland point! Yes, this is the danger of letting atheists lead the conservative movement. Hanania always gave me the creeks because of his pro abortion views, eesh.

I wrote a piece for the Federalist about what “normal” life is like without Christ, it’s a lot like Hanania’s murderous world. Y’all might like it, I’m posting the substack version here because it has extra Tom Holland content!

Don’t be a “normie”:


“Self-proclaimed “normies,” fed up with the nonstop sexualization of children, are longing for a return to normalcy. The problem with that wish is that normal is exactly what we are now getting, good and hard”

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