How We Should Conduct Ourselves in Church
Entering the Church
When we enter into a Church, we should first of all make the sign of the Cross three times with bows. The prayers that one says while doing this vary a little. Some simply say the prayer of the Publican, “God be merciful to me a sinner” with each bow. A more elaborate form is given in the prayer book:
We should be at Church on time… particularly for the Divine Liturgy, and particularly if we are planning on receiving communion. For the Vigil, one should try to be on time, but if work or other duties make that impossible, it is better to attend some of the Vigil, rather than none of it. Likewise, if such duties make it impossible to stay until the end of the Vigil, there are several points during the vigil that would be the better points to leave: 1) Immediately after vespers, but before the Six Psalms of Matins; 2) after the Six Psalms, after the kissing of the Gospel and / or the anointing with blessed oil; and 3) after the end of Matins, as the first hour is beginning. For the liturgy, we should make every effort to stay until the end – and if we have communed, leaving early is particularly to avoided except in cases of extreme necessity.
Standing in Church
The normal posture of Orthodox worship is to stand during the services. Pews are found in many Churches in America, but this is not the traditional practice of the Church. There are traditionally benches along the sides of the walls of the Church for people to sit who need to – particularly the elderly, and the infirm. There are certain times when one should definitely be standing, unless they are unable to do so: As a rule, whenever the Royal Doors are opened, during the Six Psalms at Matins (at which time one should be particularly still), during the Anaphora (when the Eucharist is consecrated), and during the “Our Father”. At these same solemn points of the service, we should also not be lighting candles, venerating the icons, or moving about unnecessarily.
If one must sit, they should not cross their legs while doing so. Particularly for those Orthodox from “the old country”, this is considered to be very disrespectful.
During the service, we should not fold our arms, or stick our hands in our pockets.
On Sundays we do not kneel or make prostrations, except when making prostrations before the Cross on those occasions when the Cross is brought out for veneration.
(Fr. John Whitford)