Coffee Confessions

by admin on March 14, 2013

Yesterday my co-worker brought up an interesting topic at lunch. He is an usher at the Sunday traditional service in his church. For the past few Sundays, a church member has shown up with a large travel coffee mug when attending the service, and sips her beverage throughout the service. He finds this unusual, and it is not something he has seen before at the traditional service. The usher mentioned it to the minister, who decided not to address the situation. Apparently no one else in the congregation has mentioned it as bothering them. My co-worker’s question to us was, is it rude to bring a beverage to a church service?

I think it depends on your church and possibly on the nature of the service. I was raised Roman Catholic, and have never seen an adult drinking a beverage during the service, nor would this be considered appropriate. Another co-worker goes to an evangelical church, where the atmosphere is relaxed (jeans and t-shirts) and snacks and beverages are available in the church. She reported that people do bring beverages into the church services with them. As for the first co-worker’s church, considering that the service he ushers at is the more formal, traditional service, I think it is out of place to bring a travel mug, and probably not in keeping with the solemnity of the service. Of course, there may be information we do not know. Perhaps this church member has a medical condition that necessitates her drinking something frequently enough that she cannot go the entire hour the service takes without her beverage. My co-worker’s take on things was that she was just drinking coffee, though. He added that this person only recently started attending the traditional service, and he thinks she previously went to the”contemporary” service, where perhaps bringing in your coffee wouldn’t be as out of place.

To me, bringing a beverage into church makes it seem like going to the movies, as if it were entertainment to watch, rather than a solemn ceremony to participate in (and, admittedly, that’s based on my view of religious services). But if she’s not bothering anyone, it’s not rude, just perhaps odd. I look forward to hearing of others’ experiences or views. 0305-13

At the Sermon on the Mount, attended by thousands of people, Jesus multiplied the fishes and loaves so that everyone would have enough to eat.   If Jesus is OK with people munching on food and drinking during his sermons, maybe we should be merciful to those who do likewise.

If the minister of your co-worker’s church sees nothing actionable in regards to a parishioner drinking coffee during the service, the buck stops with him to decide the issue.

{ 139 comments… read them below or add one }

Enna March 15, 2013 at 11:59 am

I agree with Mrs. Lovett: depends on the situtaion. But I do think that someone attending a meeting and drinking something is fairly minor.

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ElizabethD March 15, 2013 at 12:01 pm

Cordelia, you are oh so very right. Cheers to you!!

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MsAnon March 15, 2013 at 12:04 pm

I realize that although people have differing physical needs and churches have differing social norms, I think that there’s been a profound shift in America’s food and drink culture in the last fifty years, and that’s why people have such differing reactions.

Food, drinks, and meal/snack times used to be more separate from the rest of our lives. People would sit down and have a cup of coffee during their coffee break–which was ten or fifteen minutes to drink coffee and chat, before heading back to work. It wasn’t people sipping from huge mugs for hours at their desks, or nibbling almonds throughout the day at their computers. Similarly, people sat down and ate their lunch while focusing mostly on their lunch, instead of walking down the street eating a burrito or eating their breakfast while driving their cars. (Lunch at a desk was unusual.) Eating in public used to be considered vulgar by some people.

So food and eating was separated–sometimes by space (go into the break room, eat at the lunch counter, have your breakfast at home before you leave), often by time (eat only at breakfast time, lunch time, and dinner time), and very often by focus–“now we are eating; we will do other things later”. Personally I feel it is physically and mentally healthier to focus on our meals, eat mindfully, and then move on to our work or play, but I realize not everyone agrees. (And certainly early Christian worship was a communal meal.)

So many people who consider it disrespectful to eat in church, I think, are working on the “separate” framework. Probably there’s an idea of “couldn’t you focus on the sermon instead of your food; do you have to eat now and here–couldn’t you have eaten beforehand–aren’t there other places, mentally and physically, for food?” People who don’t separate food out won’t think that way.

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Amanda H. March 15, 2013 at 12:45 pm

Count me among those who sees this as a “house rules” situation. I was raised Mormon and still am, so I don’t really have much experience with other denominations’ services, but it sounds to me like the usher did the right thing in this case: he consulted with the minister first, and the minister gave his opinion on things. Unless I’m mistaken, is there really a higher authority in that particular congregation to sound off on the matter?

In our services, most people don’t bring snacks to the meetings. Some do for personal reasons, but the rest of the congregation generally ignores it. The way I was taught, at least, was that I can go without a snack for three hours if I actually ate right before the service. As an adult, the only times I bring snacks with me are when I’m pregnant, because I can sugar crash without warning then. I try to remain discreet about it. My husband and I only bring snacks for our kids when they’re under 18 months and don’t give them the snack until the second hour, when we’re out of the chapel and in individual classes where it’s less disruptive. From 18 months until age 3, they get to go to a Sunday school class where they’re given a snack anyway, and after that they’re old enough to do without for three hours.

It’s similar for women wearing pants to church. I was taught that it’s respectful to dress my best for church, which usually means skirts for women. However, there’s nothing in the scriptures and, last I checked, nothing from our church leadership dictates that women MUST wear skirts to church. I’ll admit that it catches me by surprise every so often when I see a woman in pants in church, but that’s more because it’s against the norm, not because it’s against doctrine.

As for using an electronic device in church, I see nothing wrong with it if it’s being used for following along with scriptures or church manuals, or for taking notes. It crosses the line into disrespectful when it’s being used to play Angry Birds or something similar during church. And I do still roll my eyes whenever I hear a phone ring.

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XH March 15, 2013 at 1:07 pm

I think someone typing during service would be incredibly distracting to the people who sit next to them. I would have to move away from someone who brought out a laptop at church.

It’s not kind to do things in church that interrupt the contemplative tone of the service. Someone drinking pungent coffee, texting, typing on a computer, or whatnot would be disturbing to those around them. It’s not that those around them are fixated on the sins of another, it’s that the other should be mindful not to cause distractions.

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nannerdoman March 15, 2013 at 2:24 pm

On this one, I must respectfully disagree with the Admin.

I think most people would be rather put off by a guest at a formal wedding, say, sipping from a travel mug during the ceremony, and the OP mentioned that the church service in question was the “traditional” one. I attend such a service myself every week, and while dress regulations are pretty relaxed, only small children snack during the service. The purpose of a worship service is to learn about following one’s faith and to give praise and glory to one’s deity. Refraining from snacking is a sign of respect–the same reason they don’t distribute popcorn at the State of the Union address.

As to the early Christian “love feast”, that was an act of worship and has developed into receiving Communion. In one of his letters, St. Paul reminds his correspondents that it’s not a substitute for dinner and that if they’re hungry they should eat at home.

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MollyMonster March 15, 2013 at 2:44 pm

“Conversely, how is it that people’s sensibilities are so fragile that sitting in the same building with a person silently sipping coffee is enough to ruin the experience for them?”

If the church is a formal service, it shows the coffee-bringer has a lack of respect for the rest of the congregation and didn’t bother to find out what their norms are. Sure, God still accepts you no matter what you are wearing or drinking, but showing more consideration for the other members of the church would endear you to Him further I would think. I wouldn’t want to sit next to anyone sipping coffee. I make all my coworkers leave their coffee cups outside my office because the smell of coffee is gross. I also have a pretty raging case of misophonia when it comes to food/mouth noises and if I have to listen to you crunch your snacks or slurp your drink while I am in church…it could turn ugly.

My church wants people to dress modestly: no tube tops or shorty-shorts and at first they tried making announcements to state the policy. They weren’t turning the tube-top wearers out into the streets, but they did want more formality. Well, the announcements didn’t work, so they turned the AC down to the point where if you don’t have a sweater in the summer, you will freeze in there. Anyone new who comes will make the mistake of wearing sleeveless only once.

One of the people in front of me was using his phone throughout the Mass and I thought it was pretty rude until I realized he likely had his Bible on the phone. Once that becomes more prevalent, I’ll be the dirty looks will diminish. I have often thought of getting a copy for my Kindle, but then I am worried I would forget where I am and flip over to the novel I am in the middle of. Then there is my brother uses his phone to pacify his daughter with Toy Story cartoons playing nonstop (though silently) throughout the service rather than actually trying to parent or teach the child when it is necessary to be quiet. I feel that if he gets dirty looks, he deserves them.

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Nathan March 15, 2013 at 3:10 pm

That was one of the best responses I have ever read for a submission. I grew up going to a catholic church where every service was pretty much the same and everyone quietly sat and listened, kneeled and listened, stood and listened. While I would have found it odd that one person was drinking a beverage you have to think that it is church after all, where you are there to worship and not judge other people because they like to sip coffee while they worship beside you.

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Raven March 15, 2013 at 8:36 pm

For the poster (I can’t find the post now, my apologies) who described their church as a “nice church” where everyone wears their “Sunday best” – I can think of many, many other ways a church’s “niceness” is proven. I don’t care what people wear to church, as long as they’re not naked. We are called to come as we are. Who are you trying to impress? I doubt God cares what anyone wears. If busybodies have nothing better to do than judge people for their outfits, or for bringing in a mug of water (?) to a service, they aren’t there for the right reason.

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MonkeysMommy March 15, 2013 at 9:24 pm

I am frankly amazed at how many people think this is remotely okay. I, and most parents at my church, do bring crackers and a sippy cup of water to keep,the small children quiet but I cannot imagine being rude enough to slurp coffee ( which is forbidden in my religion) during sacrament (worship) meeting. And coffee is very pungent too. I personally hate the smell and would be annoyed by having to smell it throughout church.

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MonkeysMommy March 15, 2013 at 9:32 pm

Oh and I do use my iPad for my Book of Mormon and my bible!

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SS March 15, 2013 at 10:04 pm

Without moving too far away from etiquette and into theology… I think the basic question would be what would your behavior be if God really suddenly spoke up one day and and said to you, “I want to talk to YOU”. I’m not referring to the concept of you suddenly feeling a sense of religion but of an actual deity suddenly informing you that he wanted a word with YOU personally. Would you sit there with a cup of coffee while he talked to you? Or would you sit up straight with extreme attention and show the most respect you could muster up? The point of church was supposed to be the closest you would be to actually being in God’s presence. This is your time for communing with God. If your religion believes you would sit and casually chat with God, then I supposed the coffee in church would be acceptable. If your religion believes in a more formal respect hierarchy, then it wouldn’t be appropriate. However, in either case I don’t believe it is the place of a fellow churchgoer to correct each other. That would be the function of the church official who is supposed to be responsible for instructing his/her congregation in the right direction.

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Doryna March 16, 2013 at 1:59 am

Fun historical/religious tidbit about food in church: I’ve never thought of coffee as out of place in a sanctuary, but that would likely be because I’m Moravian. Moravians celebrate a service called the Lovefeast during certain times of the year, such as Christmas Eve, New Year’s Eve, Good Friday, and so on. It’s a simple meal of fellowship and friendship that happens right in the church itself (note: this doesn’t replace communion; we still observe that as well). The original happened when a Germanic Moravian congregation had a revelatory experience regarding congregational unity and no one wanted to leave the church because they were too engrossed in celebrating. As the day wore on and people got hungry, the bishop sent out for food and drink to sate the parched parishioners. They integrated it into the service, and it’s been done ever since.

In most parts of the U.S, including our particular congregation, it’s coffee and a simple bun or sweet roll. I know other congregations that have used cider, juice, or tea for the drink, and there are records in the Moravian archives that show colonial-era Moravians, being the good Germanic people they were, served beer at early services. Yup, beer in church! It was much safer than drinking the untreated water, and coffee was both expensive and hard to obtain in the wilderness. You made do with what you had.

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Marozia March 16, 2013 at 3:46 am

I wonder what Jesus would think of this particular post?
It would be interesting to hear His side!

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SunnyDi March 16, 2013 at 9:42 pm

When we first started attending our church, there were signs up stating ‘No food or drink in the sanctuary’. I found this a bit different as we had just come from an extremely contemporary church that actually had a Starbucks in the lobby! After a few weeks at the new church, they started allowing covered drinks in the sanctuary. It’s been 5 years now and many people bring drinks into the service. I personally don’t see anything wrong with it. I praise and worship my Savior and then drink my coffee during the sermon. People also bring laptops, Kindles, iPads and phones to read the bible and take sermon notes. As long as people are there to praise and worship God, and aren’t being disrespectful, I think it’s fine. But, the bottom line is, you need to find out the norm for that particular place of worship. If THEY say no drinks, then no drinks. If they are fine with it, then the congregants should be too. When in doubt, you can always ask an usher/greeter/alderman/etc. ;0)

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Raven March 16, 2013 at 10:04 pm

@MonkeysMommy – OP uses the word “sip” to describe the action taking place. By changing it to “slurp,” you’re making an assumption and changing the situation. There is a huge difference between a sip and a slurp. Don’t make it more than it is. Also, as others have said, what’s in the cup? We don’t actually know. There could be anything in there – it might not be coffee at all. It could be water – maybe this woman prefers an environmentally-friendly reusable coffee cup over a throwaway.

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Angel March 16, 2013 at 10:07 pm

Beyond the occasional cup of water or cough drop I see no reason why a healthy person can’t go an hour or two without drinking or eating. Especially a catholic mass that is typically 45 min-1 hour–come on, you can’t go 45 minutes?? If the mass is longer than 2 hours, the church should allow at least a break or two to get a drink. But bringing in a coffee cup, travel or not shouldn’t be allowed.

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Smiling Charmer March 17, 2013 at 12:02 am

I have a friend whose cousin had jaw cancer. She`s cancer free now but has lost the ability to salivate. She HAS to carry a bottle of water and drink from it at least once every 2 minutes.

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The Elf March 17, 2013 at 8:32 am

SS: Sip coffee or stand up straight? Those are my only two options. I think I would crap my pants in shock. That’s probably not appropriate in church either.

Now I can’t stop thinking about the scene in Monty Python’s Holy Grail, when God talks to Arthur and the knights and they keep doing the wrong thing.
“God: What are you doing now?
Arthur: I’m averting my eyes, O Lord!
God: Well, don’t. It’ s like those miserable psalms. They’re so depressing. Now knock it off!”

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whoop March 17, 2013 at 10:52 am

One thing that we aren’t hearing from the OP is whether this person was making any excessive noise when drinking from the travel mug. I say that if she is drinking quietly and the pastor is OK with it, then it is fine. If that is the case, and if this person is drinking coffee, it is probably less disturbing then having them fall asleep in the middle of the service.

However, some travel mugs require you to “slurp” in order to get anything out of them, and some people are incapable of making a loud “Ahhh” sound after every sip. I can see how that might be quite disruptive. Personally, I am extremely sensitive to sounds and have had to turn around more than once to ask people to please put the snack baggy away as it is really disturbing. I have even witnessed a woman walk in mid-service with several bags and a platter of drinks from Mcdonalds, then watched as her whole family jumped up and down and gleefully dug in with generous bag rustling and lip smacking. They were sitting in the 3rd row! I was forced to leave as the whole spectacle set off my misaphonia in the worst possible way.

I understand that children sometimes need a snack to sit quietly, but then they should probably be in sunday school or one of our baby rooms, not the main service. I can also understand that an adult might need a brief snack or candy for medical reasons, but I find that such people are usually quite conscientious and will take care of their needs as quietly and quickly as possible…I find it hard to excuse prolonged snapping, smacking, sucking, digging in chip or candy bags, etc. that go on through the entire service. Also, our church does not allow food in the chapel for the sake of cleanliness. Snack bags, crumbs, and spills left on the floor and pews have led to a mouse and roach problem.

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Jen G March 17, 2013 at 11:52 am

So many people saying that they see no reason why a healthy person can’t go blah blah blah…..so I assume only healthy people are allowed in your church? Or, if they aren’t healthy, they better not LOOK healthy because they’re going to get the stink eye if they want/need to take a sip of something during the service. If people started getting up to use a hall water fountain, would you then complain about them disrupting the service?

And people wonder why so many churches are dying–so many of you are so much more concerned about appearances and of the comfort of your own sensibilities than you are about your fellow congregants.

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Kimstu March 17, 2013 at 7:04 pm

@JenG: “And people wonder why so many churches are dying–so many of you are so much more concerned about appearances and of the comfort of your own sensibilities than you are about your fellow congregants.”

Actually, in this case it’s the inveterate coffee sippers and snack munchers who seem to be more concerned about their own comfort than about their fellow congregants.

As I said in my previous post, the problem with the eat-and-drink-anywhere-at-any-time mindset (besides its recurring side effects of smells, noises, spills, stains and crumbs) is that it sends the message “My personal momentary physical urges are more important than whatever else I happen to be doing and must not be deferred even for a short time so I can give my undivided attention to my surroundings. Nothing going on around me is more important than my being able to indulge in my (coffee/snack/meal) the instant I feel the impulse.”

If that’s really the attitude that dying churches need to condone and foster nowadays in order to attract congregants, maybe they’d actually be better off dead. In a ditch, even.

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Heather March 17, 2013 at 7:36 pm

I feel like a certain portion of the commenters here are projecting or something–I mean those who respond as if the OP is being judgmental. He/she brought it up as an interesting question raised by a co-worker and just wanted to know what people thought. Just wanted to remind about that. I’m sure plenty of us have encountered people who are judgmental or rigid about proper behavior in church, but not everyone who raises a church etiquette question is the same.

I also think MsAnon has a spot-on cultural analysis that goes a long way toward showing why people have very strong opinions on both sides.

Personally, I think house rules and group culture are allowed to have a say in stuff like this, and that in a church where reverence is considered important, people would do well to respect that, but I also think flexibility would be good. As others have pointed out, some people have health needs, not always visible ones, etc. I honestly think there’s a polite way and a rude way of drinking in church–just as there’s a polite and a rude way of walking out during the service. You know–the person who just needs a bathroom break sidles out quietly and unobtrusively, the person who’s offended by something the pastor said stands up and strides out. The person who keeps her coffee under her chair and picks it up to sip extra-quietly is being polite, even if the normal thing in that church is not to have any drinks, and I personally would give her the benefit of the doubt and assume she really needs it that much. On the other hand, if the only person in the whole sanctuary with a coffee cup is waving it around and slurping, I am going to assume that person doesn’t really care if they annoy other people, or maybe is not capable of noticing that they’re doing so.

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delislice March 18, 2013 at 7:09 am

@Kimstu,

Perhaps there’s a middle road. I can imagine someone bringing coffee along during the first few early visits to a church, not familiar with churches in general and not versed in the practices of this particular church, and either gradually waking up to the knowledge that no one else is consuming stuff … or the pastor gently letting her know, after a few visits, that we usually keep snacks and drinks outside of the sanctuary.

I acknowledge that in many cases, it’s a problem, with people being so self-centered and self-focused that they don’t care and don’t bother to find out if there’s a food policy or practice, because they’re going to do what they want anyway. Their immediate desires take precedence over everything.

But, as I said, there might be a middle road.

Perhaps there are churches in which people, as they first visit a church, bring with them all their baggage of self-centeredness, instant gratification, and other cultural habits … then sit back with an attitude of waiting to be served or entertained, and walk away saying, “I didn’t really get anything out of that service.”

And instead of sneering, gossipping, or making them feel unwelcome, the members and leaders continue to love them; preach awakening to a new life in Christ, in which we behave well and in a Christ-centered, patient, considerate fashion because of Christ moving in our lives; and invite them to put something into the service rather than sitting back to get something out of it.

Such a church will not be deservedly lying battered in a ditch — like the man beside the road who was passed up by both a priest and a Levite. Such a church will be healed, whole, reaching out, welcoming, and compassionate — like the despised Samaritan, the cultural enemy of the man in the ditch, the Samaritan who tended his wounds, gave him a ride to a hotel, paid for his stay, and told the innkeeper that he would make up the payment balance on his return trip.

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sillyme March 18, 2013 at 10:37 am

This brought back a funny memory of a church my mother and I attended in the U.S. Deep South.
We were of a denomination where the pastors rotated to different churches every two years.
The church was in a semi-urban area with plenty of yummy restaurants around. Mom said one year when they got the new minister that The Women of the Church made sure — in the nicest, Southern Lady way possible — that the pastor knew the services needed to end AT 11:30 am so the congregation could get to the restaurants before the crowds hit when the other 12:00 services got out.

Gotta love Dixie priorities: Food & God are a TIE.

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Angel March 18, 2013 at 11:23 am

I agree with Kimstu, I think that an open food/drink policy may have the opposite effect–keep people away who may otherwise go to church. Look I don’t have an issue with getting a drink of water from time to time–especially if the mass is long. But the OP was regarding drinking coffee–and I’m sorry, but coffee is not a beverage to quench thirst–it’s a beverage you have in the morning with breakfast and church is not the place for it unless it is after mass during the pancake breakfast or something. As a catholic our masses generally last an hour or less. Unless you have a medical need or you are under the age of 6, you don’t need to be drinking and eating through mass. You just don’t. And yes I am well aware that medical needs are not always overt, and personally I wouldn’t judge someone who has to carry a water bottle with them at all times–even in church. But coffee? I don’t see a medical need for that.

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Amanda H. March 18, 2013 at 1:40 pm

@Heather: “As others have pointed out, some people have health needs, not always visible ones, etc.”

I’ll second this. I mentioned before that I do bring snacks with me to church when I’m pregnant, because my blood sugar can crash without warning. I’ll be feeling fine one minute, dizzy and ready to fall over the next. Thing is, I’m most susceptible to this in the first trimester, when I don’t look pregnant at all. So I’d be that person who looks perfectly healthy and yet snacking in the middle of church. It actually led to one member of the congregation suspecting that I was expecting, due to seeing me snack on a Fast Sunday (first Sunday of the month, when the large majority of adult members of the congregation fast for 24 hours or two consecutive meals for various reasons).

As others have said, a lot of people seem to be commenting on the assumption that the woman with the travel mug in the OP is slurping (the word actually used was “sip”). Not only that, but as the OP wrote, apparently the usher was the only person to bring this up with the minister, meaning either no one else is bothered by it, or at least not bothered enough to actually mention it. Sounds to me like the woman isn’t actually disrupting anyone.

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Mrs. Lovett March 18, 2013 at 3:37 pm

@Kimstu: This is one of many reasons churches are numerous and diverse – people are numerous and diverse. A church that is solemn and focused on certain rules and rituals will attract one type of person. A church that is more casual and invites its attendees to come as they are, regardless of how they dress or what they bring with them to drink during church, will attract another type of person. It is up to the pastor and congregation to determine what type of church this is. If this woman is drinking a beverage in a way that is not distracting to anyone and is not violating any rules or accepted mores of that specific church, then why should she stop or leave?

And I find the idea that a church that chooses to focus on its parishioners’ needs and comforts and allow for a more casual environment would be better off dead in a ditch repugnant. You may not feel that drinking coffee during church is appropriate church behavior, and I’m sure you’ve found a church that fits your ideologies and attitudes, which is great. But the thought that a church, which may do good works, which may give people a sense of community, which may help people feel closer to their God, shouldn’t exist because it accommodates its congregants’ desires to drink coffee or to wear jeans seems to not be in the spirit of Jesus’ teachings.

I may be an atheist, but I think Jesus said and did some pretty cool things, including welcoming everyone as they were, including lepers, the poor (such as those who may not be able to afford nice church-quality clothes, to those who scoff at jeans in church), and prostitutes. There’s nothing wrong with your choice if you choose a formal and solemn approach to worship, but please understand that other people have other perspectives and priorities in their choices regarding worship. And as long as they are not interfering with your worship choices, I hope you would not wish for the failure of their church homes.

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Rylie March 18, 2013 at 6:17 pm

Many of you seem very harsh. “Medical needs aside,” has been often said, but then scathing judgements come out against those that dare seem to be healthy and drink. I’ll second the idea that medical needs are often invisible. I look quite healthy most of the time, far younger than my actual age, and am still chronically ill and need to carry water with me to help deal with my condition/medicine side effects. I haven’t even entered your churches and I already feel unwelcome. :( maybe the coffee lady does, too.

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Sarah Jane March 19, 2013 at 9:17 am

@kimstu, I don’t know where you get the idea that these are “dying” churches, but newly-formed churches exuding this relaxed atmosphere are popping up everywhere, and many of them are growing at a rapid pace. Did you read what Mrs. Lovett wrote? While she claims to be an atheist, she seems to know more about Jesus’s teachings than a lot of my fellow believers. And you know what? No matter what “attracts” a congregant to a certain church…only Jesus will keep him there.

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Kimstu March 19, 2013 at 8:15 pm

@Mrs. Lovett and @Sarah Jane: No, as I said in my previous posts, I don’t object at all if churches want to have deliberately informal “relaxed” services where parishioners are allowed to eat and drink. But I disapprove of the expectation that recreational eating and drinking should be automatically okay whatever the circumstances.

If you want to snack in church where there’s no explicit “eating and drinking welcome” policy, what you should do is go to the pastor or the worship committee and say “Wouldn’t it be nice to include more informal services where the congregation can be comfortable and extend their fellowship with snacks and beverages if they want to?”

What you SHOULDN’T do, on the other hand, is just plunk your heinie down in a pew for an ordinary service and start quaffing and munching away, with the expectation that everybody else will just accept that feeding your face is your top priority for a worship service. Yes, I do think that even a dying church shouldn’t feel compelled to put up with that kind of attitude of selfish entitlement on the part of its congregants.

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Barbarian March 19, 2013 at 11:12 pm

I agree 100% with Angel. I am both a Catholic and a coffee lover, yet I would never dream of carrying a Starbucks cup into church no matter how badly I wanted to drink it. People whose medical conditions require a small snack or water to stay hydrated can sit at the back of the church and discreetly attend to their needs or slip out into the restroom to take their snack or drink. We are sympathetic to people in wheelchairs, walkers or other med equipment-this is just another kind.

A Mass is no more than one hour and usually followed by coffee, snacks, or lunch.

Churches have limited budgets and should not have to pay to clean up a place that looks like a movie theater just let out if everyone eats and drinks during services.

I am more annoyed by parents who entertain their small children with electronic devices during services. How do you expect these children to show respect and pay attention when they grow up?

I recall years ago serving as an aide in a 3rd grade Sunday school class. Another teacher’s son was in the class. They were running late and she brought him into class with a bag of breakfast from a popular fast food restaurant. Of course it disrupted the class. This woman should have told him to eat it in the car or else placed him in an empty classroom to eat before entering my class. One of the many good reasons I quit volunteering at that church……..

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Mrs. Lovett March 20, 2013 at 10:19 am

@Kimstu, I’m sorry for misunderstanding your intentions, and thank you for clarifying them.

While I don’t believe that a dying church that a church shouldn’t reassess its rules and priorities if it’s losing congregants, I do agree with you that a church should not drop all of its expectations of good behavior to cater to the barely-faithful. This is especially true of churches that answer to higher orders of organization, such as the Catholic churches, where many rules are diocese-wide or universal.

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michelle March 21, 2013 at 6:32 am

I think some of the posts here have confused a society’s “etiquette rules” with “God-Loves-Me-No-Matter-What-I-Do” Final Rule.

Of course, God still loves you if you eat and drink in church. But there are some things in society that are just “not done”.

If Mother Theresa accepted a wedding invitation, and then woke up the morning of the wedding and decided she just didn’t feel like going so didn’t go, I would say that action puts her in etiquette hell. Does God still love her? Of course! Did she commit an etiquette error here? You bet!

It’s not about “judging” others or “not judging” others in a Deity-oriented setting. It’s about what a society comes up with about “acceptable behavior” vs “unacceptable behavior”.

If I were getting married in a church that allows eating and drinking during worship, I would want everyone’s attention on ME ME ME THE BRIDE (another form of etiquette hell behavior) instead of on their lattes!

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Lynette March 25, 2013 at 1:57 am

A lot of people have mentioned medical needs and the like. I think it’s important to remember that not everyone is coming to your service from home after a night of full sleep. We have members in our church who are policemen, nurses, doctors, fire fighters, EMTs, on-call tech support, and so on who are coming to church straight from work. Then there are the parents who were up all night with a sick kid or a colicky baby, people dealing with ailing parents, and folks whose own issues may have had them up all night. If the choice is to have these people there with covered coffee containers to keep them alert through the sermon vs. having them miss church or fall asleep and snore loudly? I’ll pick coffee and understanding that not everyone works a 9-5, M-F schedule with 8 hours of lovely, restful sleep before service.

I’ll also mention that many adults with ADHD find keeping a certain level of caffeine in their system works to keep them focused better and cheaper than prescription drugs. As the parent of a teen with ADHD, I’d much rather he feel welcome as he is rather than being censured because he fails to be “properly” neurotypical.

Sure, there are limits, but a lady quietly sipping coffee (or water or tea or whatever was in her mug) hardly qualifies as the self-absorbed protagonist of the horror plots presented by some above. There’s no slurping, crinkly bags, or cheering in the pews for McDonald’s going on here, so I fail to see the relevance of these scenarios. They seem to be slippery slope arguments– “Why, if we let people wear jeans or short sleeves, the next thing you know, they’ll be showing up naked!!”– which are mostly compelling for how ridiculously unlikely they are to occur.

Simple fact is, churches need to be open to the neuro-atypical, the person on the graveyard shift, the person dealing with illness or pain or depression or insomnia or worry or crisis or whatever may have them up at night, the person with invisible medical issues, etc. even if it sometimes means making the weekday-jobbed, able-bodied, healthy, well-rested majority accommodate the more needy minority and do it with the love and grace of Jesus.

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Janet Marie May 19, 2013 at 2:58 pm

I am a life long Catholic. I was taught from an early age about the fasting before Communion. I will give a pass to someone with a health condition who may need something or the cantor who sips on water as an example. I am less likely to give a pass to a parent who has their kids play with electronics during Mass, allows their kids to wear clothing with logos that do not belong at any place of worship much less a school yard, and/or brings enough food for their kids like they were at a restaurant. I ensure that I have plenty of caffeine in my system before Sunday morning Mass to keep migraines away but I drink my drink before I even enter the church & never would dream of bringing with me inside. Yes, I do slip out before the just before the end of Mass but I have a good reason for it: my job schedule requires me to work on Sundays at a certain time and if I do not, I will not get to work on time due to the many people in attendance, and some take their time to leave (I will give a pass to the senior citizens).

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