Editor's Note: Easter Tips for Heathens originally ran in April 2009. For those of you headed back to church this coming Easter Sunday, here's a refresher course on how to behave in God's house.
Call them the CMEs. You know who I’m talking about. The folks who go only go to church on Christmas, Mother’s Day and Easter. Whether you’re a Bible-toting regular or a member of Bedside Baptist, you know this Sunday’s service will be packed.
Don’t worry. We’re not judging you. We’re here to help. If it’s your first time going to church in a while, here are a few reminders and tips to help you get through Easter morning without causing the roof of the church to fall in.
Those seats in the pulpit, they are reserved. Everyone wants a good seat on Easter. But unless you’re a bishop, elder, pastor or minister, stay out of the pulpit! If you can, stake out space in the middle of the congregation. If you sit way up front, you might get called on to stand up and say something. Sitting in the very back draws attention, too. Sit at the outer corner of a middle pew and act like you sit there each week.
If there is communion, do not ask for seconds on the wine. Not many churches use real wine any more. And those that do usually serve Mogen David or some variation. If it turns out to be grape juice, don’t act disappointed or say "what’s up with this?" Whatever’s in the tiny cup, just drink it and lower your head in prayer. And don’t forget to ask for forgiveness for your triflin’ ways.
Leave your child’s Easter candy at home. I don't care how much little Mary or Marcus screams. It’s not good to have them rattling paper and eating candy throughout the entire service. Especially if no one in the congregation knows your family. As a matter of fact, leave all food back at home in your kitchen. You might have fond memories of your grandmother smuggling chicken legs and jelly beans into the sanctuary in her purse to keep you quiet and satisfied during service, but we’ve evolved. Save the goodies for brunch.
Don’t leave while the pastor is preaching. There are some OK times to slip out of church early. Right after the offering, before the benediction is an acceptable opening—provided that you dropped some cash in the collection plate. But whatever you do, do not get up and roll during the sermon. Easter Sunday is the best chance all year for preachers to reach believers, especially errant ones like you. Just sit still and listen. And do not fall asleep. After all, it may be another year before you hear the Good News.
Don’t overdo the Holy Ghost thing. After the downer of all downers, Good Friday, Easter is a joyous, celebratory event. If you find yourself in a Baptist, Methodist, Evangelical or Pentecostal church, there may be rocking and clapping and hand waving when the choir starts singing. In the more lively churches, people will likely even stand up. Go with the flow if you are comfortable with that, but don’t get carried away. Do not start doing the Cabbage Patch or, God forbid, the Stanky Legg—even if they start singing Kirk Franklin. The choir director has license to break out his funky moves. You do not.
Most of all, be friendly, soak up the spirit and enjoy the day. Easter is meant for family, friends and fellowship in celebration of the resurrection of Jesus Christ. And no, He is not the Easter bunny.
Denise Stewart is a Baptist in Alabama.