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Church Etiquette

Pew protocol tips for Mass manners

These guidelines are offered by Ambassador Protocol, a company that offers etiquette training, part of which promotes increased awareness of manners during Mass.

Attire

The idea of “Sunday best” should be honored; churchgoers of all ages should dress conservatively. Coat and tie is appropriate for men, but not required. Women should wear modest dresses, skirts and slacks; no tank tops, short skirts or tight-fitting clothing.

Arrival

Arrive at least 10 minutes before Mass begins. This helps reduce distractions and provides time to get settled. Latecomers should wait to be seated by ushers so as not to disrupt the service and the congregation.

Entering the church

It is optional to bless yourself with holy water, but as a sign of respect for the Blessed Sacrament, genuflect before taking your seat. Slide over to the center of the pew to accommodate others who arrive after you.

Quiet time

The liturgy is not the time to socialize with friends or prepare the offering envelope. Instead, sit quietly or pray. Turn off cell phones and pagers.

Kneeling

Respect for the Eucharist demands that we kneel on our knees without leaning back on the pew. Be careful not to drop or bang the kneelers.

If ill or disabled, it is acceptable to sit.

Sign of Peace

People usually shake hands or exchange a quick kiss, but if you have a cold or cough, you can politely say, “Peace be with you,” without shaking hands.

Communion

Receive the holy Eucharist with reverence, bow slightly and respond “Amen.” If receiving the host by hand, place the left hand over the right (or opposite if you are left handed) and raise your arms slightly.

Gum or candy should never be in your mouth when taking the host.

Sign of the Cross

Join your hands; touch the forehead with the tips of your three longest fingers on your right hand, to the center of your chest, then to your left and right shoulder (in that order)

Leaving the church

The final part of Mass is singing a closing hymn.

Leaving before the hymn ends is inappropriate.

Genuflect toward the altar before leaving the pew or at the end of the pew.

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