Stand Up, Sit Down, Stand Up, Sit Down

Have you ever noticed that there is a lot of standing up in Christian church services?

That’s because in the Medieval Age, church buildings did not have pews or seats of any kind. The congregants stood throughout the observance. The priest occasionally would kneel at the altar, but he had his back to the congregation itself.

When the Protestants broke away from the Roman Church, they exalted the preaching of the Scriptures. The priest turned around to face the congregation and would often hold forth for hours. The somewhat brief medieval liturgy was replaced by elaborate lecture.

As a result, the wealthier members of congregations began to purchase wooden pews and bring them into the sanctuary so they could sit during the sermon. These were the congregants’ property, and were even willed to their heirs.

Since Christian worship was never intended to be a seated exercise, the priest would wind up asking the congregants to rise for certain observances. People would do so and then sit back down when they did not need to be standing.

Today, we think of church as something you sit through and occasionally stand. In reality, it is supposed to be a standing observance in which you are permitted to occasionally sit.

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