June 26, 2016
Stand or Kneel? When and Where?
One of the guidelines that I live by when designing and responding to liturgy is: Liturgical acts are not things to be done during prayer, but are themselves prayer. Therefore, even the posture of the congregation is important. In this case the Book of Common Prayer, 1979, (BCP) is directive around what the congregation is supposed to be doing when it is in worship.
The assumption of the BCP is: the congregation stands for praying, sits for listening, and kneels for confessing. The caveat with this adage is that it was not, and is not practiced in all parishes, in all places, and in all times. A quick visit to various churches will prove this out.
Some quick observations about using these guidelines here. (1) I take my direction from the BCP for congregational posture, admitting the BCP is not always as clear as it could be. (2) Your own spiritual needs may call you into a posture different from the congregation and that is faithful thing. (3) If you have questions about what the BCP says, I am happy to review it with you. (My phone is 703-759-2082 and my email is firstname.lastname@example.org).
On Sunday at the Eucharist the following directions are in our Order of Service and are derived from the directions of the BCP. Opening Acclamation through the Collect of the Day (all prayers), we stand. During the first two readings and psalm, we sit. During the Sequence (hymn before the Gospel) through the Gospel, we stand because the Gospel is given special honor (an exception to the guideline). We sit during the sermon. We stand for the Nicene Creed and Prayers of the People. We kneel for the Confession and Absolution. At the early service where we use Rite 1, we stand for the Sursum Chorda, Proper Preface, and Holy, Holy, Holy (another exception) and kneel thereafter; and for all other services we stand for the whole Great Thanksgiving because it is prayer. We also stand for the Postcommunion Prayer, not just because it is prayer, but also because we are being sent into the world. This is the general outline, and why. Specifics to follow.
The Rev. David Lucey