Gestures (or what am I supposed to do when?)

The Rev. Jim Richardson, Priest-in-Charge

One of the running jokes in our denomination is that our worship sometimes looks like “Episcopal calisthenics.” We stand, we sit, we kneel, we cross ourselves, and we turn this way and that way. We certainly aren’t passive spectators. But it can feel confusing, especially if you are new. So how to know what to do when?

There aren’t many hard and fast rules – but there are a few. We stand to sing and to face the Gospel book when it is read. We are seated for the sermon, but only after the preacher invites us to be seated (wait for the invitation). We stand to recite the Creed after the sermon.

Beyond that, we let the Spirit move us. The traditional stance for prayer is standing, while kneeling is appropriate for confession. But some people prefer to kneel for prayer and stand for confession. Both ways are fine. Uniformity is not required.

How about crossing yourself? You don’t have to cross yourself – it is optional (I grew up in a “low” church tradition, and we never did that in my family). If you want to cross yourself, the appropriate moments are at mentions of the Trinity and those who have died.

Think of our gestures as part of our prayers. We bring our whole being to our prayers with our words, our mind, our sight (looking at symbols like stained glass windows), and our taste and smell (the bread and wine of Communion). Our whole body is a part of our prayers through our gestures. Let the Spirit move you in your gestures, and see how it feels.