We will stand

My husband is good friends with the Orthodox priest, Father Dan Kovalak. That is how I made my first entrance into an Orthodox Church of any kind. A lot of things about it were different to me, but what really stood out in my mind is how we stood throughout the whole service. It is the custom in the Orthodox Church to stand for services. They explain why on many of their web sites and site Scriptures that support the idea that the early church descended from synagogue worship where they had no seating. Indeed, the web site of Father Dan’s church states:

Though we usually stand in worship, we do have pews.

An inside picture of the sanctuary shows the seating provided., but it is there for the very young and infirmed. As I was riding bikes with my friend, Ann, today she talked about studying worship in the Old Testament and how the people never sat. She said they stood, bowed, knelt or laid prostrate in an act of reverence and submission. There were no seats. One Orthodox web site put it this way:

Orthodox Christians could not conceive of simply sitting in the presence of the Lord especially while in worship. It is a sign of respect when a judge or even the President of the United States enters a room that those assembled rise up. No less do Orthodox Christians stand (or kneel in humility if it is not a Sunday) before the King of Glory Who comes invisibly upborn by unseen armies of angels.

http://www.stsusanna.com/Orthodoxy.htm

Today I salute my Orthodox brothers and sisters who stand in His presence for worship. You are a shining light in this light-needy world. I must think about this more.

God bless,

Dawn

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16 comments on “We will stand

  1. Wow! This is totally new to me! I enjoyed your thoughts on this.Though we stand in our church a lot, we also sit. I will also have to think on this some more too.
    One church I entered in complete solitude… no one else present was the most amazing feeling of being in the presence of God. And though I walked in with my arms and heart in praise and gratitude, by the time, I reached the altar, I was prostrate and did not want to leave this holy of holies…You see, from the outside during daylight this building was quite dead; clay hardened into concrete with windows that are cracks only between pieces of concrete. There are three arms that come toward the one altar and each arm has the colours of glass going from less intense to fully intense, one arm shades of blue, one reds, one violets, so much so that you feel this intensity of beauty well up within you as you near the altar, where the light has become warmth and fulness, and there becomes a need and desire to burst forth with praise to a most Holy and Worthy God. It reminds me so completely of coming ‘into’ the Light and seeing Him as He is.
    Christ in us, our hope of glory! Our earthen vessels, but breathed in clay, yet Christ present in the holy of holies within each heart of the believer…It is no longer I that liveth, but Christ that liveth in me.
    That was true worship and I entered standing but then lay prostrate in the warmth of the brightness.

    In our church , we stand… and we sit… as we listen and study, but in worship, true worship, I want to stand and reach to the heavens and dance and sometimes be on my face before His holiness.
    My evening walk before sleep, out under the stars, or, like tonight before sunset, how God painted the sky blue, studded with pink clouds and the trees golden in the last light…these are the places I feel my spirit freest in worship….
    However we worship, He remains the same, forever worthy…
    http://www.google.ca/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=%20http%3A%2F%2Fsck.ca%2F&source=web&cd=9&ved=0CFMQFjAI&url=http%3A%2F%2Fmembers.shaw.ca%2Fpanthers7%2FWestminsterAbbey01.html&ei=STqiTpTVJKKyiQKqlOl-&usg=AFQjCNFShylg-RaKBeXaX-EBKKgYDNi7zQ&sig2=SQSHxzG3JzKi3Z_u5N0aTA&cad=rja

    • Dear Susan,

      I am so glad you included the website address so I could see the church. It is majestic–fit for a King.

      I was talking to my same friend, Ann, about human differences in worship. I remember Dutch Sheetz, a leader in the charismatic movement since I was a young woman, saying that there will be some wheat stems that wave in the wind, bowing low and rising high as the wind blows, but there are also those fully mature grains bundled into sacks and they are heavy and practically immovable. He warned both not to judge the other. You said it so well when you said “However we worship, He remains the same, forever worthy…”

      I never thought of His forever-ness encompassing worthiness. Thanks for this,
      Dawn

    • Susan, that is really close to me . . . one of the men from my church goes there frequently . . . hmmm, I will have to have a chat with him. I would love to experience this too.

      • Andrea… do pick a Saturday or day when it is empty but doors open to the public and as you go forward to the altar feel the beauty and holiness increase… and enjoy your worship of the One to whom this building was erected…I would love to see it from the outside in the evening… tell me how it is if you go then

  2. Dawn,
    My Pastor recently came back from Uganda and told us how the people would shout and lay flat on the floor and every worship experience was just that. . . such true worship!
    And now I read your post and I wonder along with you why we are comfortable sitting in His Presence but stand for so much less than Him.
    Is it our culture? Entertain me. Tell me something I need to hear. Put on a good show.
    I’ll just sit here.
    I think it might be that.
    And that makes me cringe and hurt deeply.
    I am reading a book called CHASING FRANCIS right now and it is about what authentic Christianity looked like in the life of St.Francis.
    It is captivating and thought provoking and convicting.
    I don’t know Dawn.
    Maybe I will remove the chairs from the barn where I attend church before the service? Knowing my Pastor, who is amazing, He probably would tell me to go ahead and do it!
    Have a beautiful weekend!

    • Dear Danelle,

      I am most at home with people who worship long and hard. I remember my second son (then, college-aged) saying to me once after such an intense time in worship, “Mom, you really like this, don’t you?” I never gave a thought to whether or not I liked it, it was a gift to Him, the Love of my life, because, as Susan says above, He is worthy. Whether or not I liked it seemed irrelevant (but I did).

      I have been to west Africa, to the country of Sierra Leone, and every place I worshiped there was like what your Pastor described above. I believe such worship is an extension of the culture there, just as, you rightly say, our worship is an extension of ours. Please, please, please let me know what happens if/when you remove the chairs (except for a bench clearly marked for the infirmed).

      I go to a church without indoor plumbing. The people firmly believe that plumbing makes for poor stewardship. You lose money for ministry when you have to heat the church when it is not in use so the pipes won’t freeze. There is an outhouse for everyone’s use and they make it as quaint as possible with all kinds of towelettes and hand sanitizers. They have a bathroom rug for your feet, etc. The elderly use it without grumbling because that is how they grew up. The children don’t think much twice about it because that is what everyone uses so they do, too. It’s only when visitors come that we have to explain our reasoning. I LOVE it…

      and you,
      Dawn

  3. I love it when you post a piece that ignites such deep conversation.
    While worship originates in the heart, the spirit, it expands outward and is released in our words, our posture, our movements. I believe this . . . worship affects us physically!
    Having been raised in a Baptist church we were told when to stand, when to sit, what to do, and how to do it. We did not raise our hands or tap our toes. I dare say even looking happy was frowned upon. We were worms and wretches and it behooved us to remember that. So yes, there is a cultural influence there.

    As an adult, when I rededicated my life to Christ after a time of wandering, worship for me was radically transformed. I could hardly stay in my seat, my hands would just naturally be raised to give Him praise, kneeling, lying prostrate all expressions that flowed naturally from what was in my heart. Initially, I had much more freedom at home than at church, but have gravitated to churches that encourage freedom of expression in worship.

    Nowadays, I don’t kneel because of excruciating pain . . . but I would love to. Lying prostrate is pretty much restricted to my bed. But when the music begins I am on my feet and stay up as long as my legs will hold me. Arms spread wide and high, or over my heart.

    So, what do I think about standing through services? If it is done with a true heart of worship it is a truly beautiful way to honour the One who is worthy. If done by rote or demand or pressure it is no more blessed than sitting through a service.

    Standing in grace, Andrea Dawn

    • Dear Andrea Dawn,

      Your loving heart and discerning spirit are evident throughout this post. You’ve lived on both side of the worship pendulum so you are an eye-witness. I am grateful that you took the time to give such a lengthy post and to put yourself out there to teach all of us who pass by. When you said, “[You} have gravitated to churches that encourage freedom of expression in worship.” I would say that is a good solution. Go where people understand. I did the same when I needed to do so.

      I am praying for full healing of your knee and I know that others join me. That should no longer be an issue, but He is teaching you while you are waiting so you can be an advocate for others.

      Standing next to you in the grace line,
      Dawn

  4. The greatest “church” and time of worship that I ever participated in was when I was in the 9th grade. I spent 6 weeks “working” at a Pioneer Girl Camp Cherith — setting tables, preparing meals, and doing dishes. Our morning worship was held in the “tabernacle.” It was in the wooded area of pine trees, on the top of a mountain. We climbed up there, rain or shine. There were backless benches made of rough wood, hinged to the trees, a roughly made pulpit from pine limbs, etc. And there we prayed, sang, worshipped, and listened as the wind blew through the pine boughs, the birds sang, and the early morning sunbeams shone through upon us. I get the shivers just thinking about it, and I wonder if it is still there, 50 years later. I did not know about the standing through services, Dawn. My dad grew up in the Netherlands, and I think they sat in pews. I had known that in the OT times, the Isrealites always stood as they listened to Moses, Joshua, etc. Living in Florida with so many elderly, pews are a necessity. Even me, with poor knees and feet, I don’t think I could stand through a service totally. I love standing as I sing, and I’m finally feeling more free to raise my hands and worship more freely and from my heart. I was raised in a very “tight”, closed lipped, formal baptist church where no one even voiced an “Amen!”. You could hear a church mouse sqeak, it was so quiet. The study of worship is amazing, that is for sure. As someone above me spoke of being alone in a majestic church and worshipping there —- I have done that, too. In fact, to walk into any sanctuary when it is quiet and still and I am alone seems to have that same effect on me. I always want to sing, for some reason. Perhaps it is a sense of God being there and I would like Him to hear my song.

    What do I think of standing? I’ll be completely honest here. I’m on the fence. In fact, I’m on the fence with several issues concerning worship. I do believe everyone should be free to worship as they feel led to do so. But so many times, when God is speaking to my heart, I can be so distracted by others around me that I seem to lose Him. Yet, on the other side of it, I have held back my own worship in fear of distracting someone else and have been sorry for doing that, too.

    This is such a great discussion, Dawn. It stretches my thinking beyond where I’m just comfortable in “what always was.” I’ll be thinking about this while sitting in my usual place — 4 pews from the back!

    • Dear Cora,

      I think there are too many judges on both sides of the worship issue. Sensitivity to others is important–their physical state as well as their spiritual state and their cultural upbringing. I think it is so much easier to accept something different when you expect difference (like being in another country or another denomination), but when a fellow traveler, whose membership card is much like yours, does something really different, there must be something wrong. Yes, 9 times out of 10 when there is no explanation, we will fill in the blanks with something negative (the book, Mind Matters by Michael Gazzaniga).

      I don’t want to be negative here, either. I think there is cause for discernment. Not all that is set forth as worship is worship, I just want the sacks of flour to be able to stand amongst the willowy stalks without provocation. If the Lord wants them to be different, He will convict them. At the same time, I don’t want the sack to discourage the delicate reed. “A bruised reed he will not break, and a flickering candle he will not snuff out!” Isaiah 42:3. Love is tough, but it is not easy.

      With you in the struggle,
      Dawn

  5. … a light-needy world. Ah yes, Dawn. I’m so glad to know there are those who practice respect and reverance in worship. Encouraging… like the rare teenager who says, “Yes ma’am” and “Yes sir.” Well, that is important in my part of Texas. Somehow, I think worshippers do well to learn from each other. Even Paul admonished–over and over and over– STAND. Stand firm. STAND, I say.
    And… I am standing in the need of prayer.
    I can always count on something new at your blog, Dawn. THANK YOU.
    Liz

    • Dear Liz,

      I am with you in prayer–whatever the need. I was so. very. tired this morning when I had to drive my husband around to preach in our two churches. I got through the first service and, as I was driving to the second, I was mad and grumbling to myself in the car trying to think of a way to drop DH off to preach and then go find a spot to park the car and take a nap. Of course, I didn’t.

      We got inside the church and everyone was ready to worship. Mary started to play the organ and I was re-charged. We sang and laughed together, stood and hugged each other, sipped coffee and ate lunch together. When I got home I napped–in the appropriate spot. Yesterday my daughter and I spent the day at an amusement park with second son and his family. That’s what made for the incredible fatigue. I wanted to mention to you that my daughter lives in Virginia and spent 8 years in the Navy. When someone does something for her, she always responds “thank you, Ma’am.” and she gets lots of pleasant looks. Your comment made me think of this because it happened at the amusement park several times yesterday.

      God bless you, Liz,
      Dawn

  6. Lovely post!!
    I’m a Coptic (Egyptian) Orthodox Christian, and loved how you, Dawn and all the commenters, presented the Orthodox Church!
    It is a miracle that the Orthodox church still exists after all the centuries of persecution it’s been through!

    The basics of spirituality in Orthodoxy is that we care not just about the Bible, but also tradition. That is the main reason we are against Martin Luther’s slogan “Sola Scriptura”, Only Scriptures.

    Some people think that tradition is just following what our ancesters said 2000 years ago, not giving a chance for our own interpretation or contemplation in God’s words. That’s not true!
    Tradition helps us understand verses, which are hard to understand! I’ll give an example, Luke 22:9.
    “This is My body which is given for you; do this in remembrance of Me.”
    The first half of the verse says “My body”, while the second says “rememberance”. So what is it? Is it real or just a symbol to remember Him? Instead of leaving it for personal interpretation, we go back to those who lived with Christ to tell us what He meant. In this case, they all said the bread we take for communion is no longer bread, but Jesus Himself.

    We all follow tradition without actually noticing, a very good example is words that are pronounced differently than the way they are written, like: right, knot, knife …etc. How did we know that that’s the way they are pronounced? We were told so by our parents and teachers, and how did they know? by their parents and teachers ..etc.

    Sorry for the long comment .. I just loved the post so much and wanted to tell more about Orthodoxy!

  7. Dear Mike,

    You do not have to apologize for long posts here. Sometimes, perhaps the majority of times (?), the comments are richer than the posts. I never want to limit that!

    I loved your word example, that we say words because we were taught to say them a certain way not necessarily because they are spelled as they sound. I have never thought of words as traditions, but they ARE! Wow! I loved this new insight!

    I am so happy you came by. We needed the voice of a true Orthodox.

    Thank you,
    Dawn

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