Henry Alford’s “Would it Kill You to Stop Doing That? A Modern Guide to Manners” is a witty look at the state of manners in the contemporary world. It’s not so much a prescription or even a lament as it is an observation. So many of the stories are (sometimes sadly) funny .
It did make me think a bit about state of manners in the church. I’m tempted to go on a long rant. Letting people stand or sit by themselves at fellowship time (all the while insisting that we are don’t do that). Telling a newcomer “you are sitting in our pew.” Witnessing someone saying to a newcomer “you are sitting in our pew” and not doing anything to mitigate it. Telling someone “you can’t do it that way” without first finding out the whole story. Talking in “code” that other people can’t understand, making them feel like outsiders.
OK, so I gave in to temptation and ranted (those are a few of the things I have observed or heard about in the past few months at my church).
But Alford’s book made me think that manners in the church are like manners anywhere else. Good manners mean making people feel recognized and welcome and included. Not embarrassing people. Thinking of things from the other person’s perspective. Recognizing that other people have different perspectives and life experiences just as valid as yours.
He quotes Edmund Burke, an 18th century writer, who said that “manners are more important than laws.” Even the unspoken and unwritten “laws” in the church. Manners, I think, are about hospitality to everyone. And isn’t that what we should be about in Christ’s church?