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 }

ElizabethD March 14, 2013 at 12:09 pm

Completely unacceptable and no, not entirely up to the clergy person leading the service. Church gatherings are comprised of the attendees, and I’m guessing this level of casualness is not embraced by the group. And jeans in church? Don’t get me started …


Rae March 14, 2013 at 12:21 pm

I was raised Catholic and we were taught about the fasting, though I am not sure how many people actually followed it to a “t.” When I was in the choir, we would have waterbottles, and at the Christmas midnight mass or Easter Vigil, we would have bottles of Coke or Mountain Dew to help us stay awake. I personally don’t have a problem with having beverages in church as long as they don’t cause a mess.


MichelleP March 14, 2013 at 12:46 pm

Totally with admin. Count me in with the “who cares if it isn’t affecting you” crowd. I attended my sister’s church a few times, trying to get back into churchgoing. The parishioners were loud, rude, talking, popping gum, you name it. During my sister’s and neice’s baptism, which should have been a wonderful occasion for myself and my family, I had to literally beg several of the churchgoers to be quiet. I told them outright “I’d like to hear this if you don’t mind.” They looked at me like I was crazy. Totally sent me elsewhere. I would have been fine with a person drinking quietly from a sealed cup.


MichelleP March 14, 2013 at 12:48 pm

@Barensmom, the OP didn’t say the churchgoer was slurping, and a travel cup isn’t likely to spill. What’s “inconsiderate and disgusting” about it?


Sarah Jane March 14, 2013 at 12:52 pm

I have been in church all my life and have attended Catholic as well as a variety of Protestant services.

I don’t believe this can become an etiquette question pertaining to any church without consideration of the following: the doctrinal perameters of the church (as mentioned above regarding Mass, for example), the procedures/expectations for how services are to be conducted, the general “housekeeping” standards set by the church, and the philosophies regarding church environment as viewed by the church. Of course the minister(s) but also the congregation set the tone for this.

I belong to an outreach-based “come as you are” church that meets in a warehouse-type building. We offer coffee, water bottles, and breakfast snacks at the door. It is very common to see people eating and drinking in the sanctuary before, during, and after the service.

If a church has “housekeeping” concerns, or if the church body believes that eating/drinking is a distraction for other worshipers, disrespectful to the solemnity of the service, or otherwise detrimental to the goals of the worship experience embodied by the church, then I believe it is only right to post signs specifically prohibiting food or drinks.

Otherwise, it’s not really my place to judge whether someone’s drinking coffee constitutes irreverence. Only God knows that person’s heart and attitude.


Yet Another Laura March 14, 2013 at 1:01 pm

A couple Catholic posters pointed out the requirement to fast one hour prior to Mass. I grew up Catholic and sang in the choir and I’ve never heard of that. We’d go in the mornings right after breakfast or the Saturday evening after a quick supper if I was scheduled for that Mass. In any event as a singer, I needed a lubricated throat.

On the other hand, I don’t remember seeing anybody drinking in church. If someone did have a beverage, I never noticed.

I think it would bother me if the beverage in question was loudly slurped next to my ear.


Dear! March 14, 2013 at 1:24 pm

I think it is really odd that the coworker is so conerned by this. As long as the member is not disrupting the service or making a mess, I dont see the problem. My personal view is that you should be free to come as you are and should be able to be comfortable (reasonably so) as long as you are there to learn and partake in what is being said.

Many of the churches in my area are VERY snobby to people who wear pants, and some even had a problem with jewelry up until a few years ago, and it always turned me off. I always felt like I was being watched and judged the most in the place I felt I should have felt the safest.

I think the pastor chose not to mention it, because this could very well turn off a new member, and it sounds like your coworker has already been keeping a close eye on them – perhaps too close.

Im a bit non-traditional in my views, but I think people get so caught up in tradition and what they think is right they dont realize when they are pushing people away for, at least in my opinion, trivial reasons.


Kirst March 14, 2013 at 1:28 pm

I think most people are able to concentrate on a service and drink from a mug at the same time. It seems odd to me, but I can’t see why anyone would have a problem with it.


Missy March 14, 2013 at 1:38 pm

As a general rule, I wouldn’t bring food or drink into a church but that’s more out of an idea that it should be a “mess free” zone out of respect. I’d consider a water bottle, especially for kids. But not something potentially staining like coffee. The sermon on the mount was outside and I don’t think loaves and fishes were going to stain the environment.

That said, every adult knows what they really do need and I try and be respectful of that. If the guy next to me decides he needs a cup of coffee, it’s not up to me to wonder about it. If the church wants to set hard-and-fast rules, that’s definitely up to them.


michelle March 14, 2013 at 2:02 pm

I want to say it wouldn’t bother me, but something deep inside is insisting that this is the end of civilization as we know it.

I guess if liquid/coffee/whatever is absolutely medically necessary, then okay. But in the vast majority of cases, that wouldn’t be the case. It would simply be a case of people wanting their coffee/beverage when they want it. And, to me, that smacks a little of self-centeredness, which defeats the supposed purpose of going to church, anyway.


Lea March 14, 2013 at 2:35 pm

I’m old-fashioned too. I don’t think it’s appropriate for this lady to be drinking coffee during a church service. Church is supposed to be solemn and formal, after all. I do, however, think it’s okay to have a drink if you’re singing. I was getting over a stomach bug the day I had to sing “Rejoice greatly” from Handel’s Messiah in church, and I would have died if I hadn’t brought some tea.


Spuck March 14, 2013 at 2:45 pm

It all comes down to the policy of the church. If the church has certain clothing or food standards it is their job to make these standards known in the politest and efficient way possible. I wouldn’t want to go to a church where I didn’t know the exact standards then be publicly berated for my choices without knowing the unwritten rules. Yes you can have certain dress codes to follow, but depending on the area you can also risk loosing parishioners. At my Aunt’s church on Cape Cod, during summer, people often go to Church in shorts and t-shirts while the regulars are dressed in their Sunday bests. The church leaders just decided it was better to relax certain rules their risk alienating their flocks.


Elle March 14, 2013 at 2:50 pm

Plank in your own eye before you worry about the mote in another’s and all that.

Maybe she’s never been a churchgoin’ sort – I wouldn’t want her to feel unwelcome over something as small as a cup of coffee.

Maybe she needs the caffeine during the sermon to stay awake after an all-nighter – I’d rather have her partake in the spiritual family than feel she has to stay home.

Maybe she’s from a more casual church out of town – I wouldn’t want her to think we valued rules and appearances over a spirit of welcoming.

And maybe, since I’m there to participate in the “solemn ceremony” of it and not there for the entertainment of people watching and her quietly enjoying a tasty beverage in no way interferes with that – I ignore it completely and don’t gossip to my coworkers about it.


Jennifer March 14, 2013 at 3:00 pm

A church I have frequented in the past has an espresso bar in the lobby. Some people have brought their coffees into service, others water. Even the pastor has the occassional latte/mocha/water up front with him. However, this church is more on the relaxed side. Because of certain medications I have been on in the past, carrying a beverage of some kind was a necessity wherever I went. If it doens’t bother the minister/pastor, then why worry about it any longer?


Jane March 14, 2013 at 3:09 pm

It completely and totally depends on the church. There are hundreds of thousands of “sects” and types of churches. Some are laid back; some are conservative. It completely varies.

In my experience, I wouldn’t take a drink into church. However, I’ve seen an elderly person do this – I’ve always assumed it was a medical issue and didn’t think anything of it.

I’ve heard of churches serving a small snack (coffee, juice and donuts) before services; usually in the kitchen or other room. I think this is a lovely idea that lets guests energize before going into service.


Stacey Frith-Smith March 14, 2013 at 3:16 pm

Oh, Admin- excellently stated! Perfectly stated! As long as the culture of faith is more about screening out people and behaviors instead of about the serious business of being in community with one another and with God, it has utterly failed in its essential mandate of bringing a loving God to a hurting world, with which each participant in faith should fully identify. Let the kids and the babies in, let the old folks and the teens in, let the poor and the rich in, let the special needs and the brilliant and the creative and the whole world in. Community happens around “us”, not around “I”.


Mrs. Lovett March 14, 2013 at 3:29 pm

@Yet Another Laura, I was raised in the Roman Catholic Church and attended Catholic school for nine years. The way it was explained to me, the one hour fast is required not before Mass but before Eucharist. Since the Mass usually lasted about an hour and Eucharist was one of the last parts of the Mass, it’s okay to eat right before you go to church. Also, you are still allowed to drink water, take medicine, or partake in any food or drink that may be necessary for a medical condition, even if it’s less than an hour before Eucharist.

I was raised Catholic, but I also attended many other churches in my teens and in college while trying to figure out my beliefs. I no longer practice any religion, but I still find myself disappointed that so many people find practicing religion to be all about conforming to a certain set of rules and deciding that everyone must behave a certain way just because. All churches do not operate the same, nor do they follow the exact same dogmas, nor do they have the same rules, expectations, or general dress code. Some are very formal and all about awe, reverence, and solemnity, and that’s just fine. Others approach worship as greeting God like an old and familiar friend, coming as they are and engaging in casual behaviors such as drinking coffee during the service. And that’s just fine, too. What’s important is to know the particular church you attend to to adapt to its rules. If you don’t like the church you are attending, try to find one that’s a better fit. But it’s important to recognize that everyone worships and views God in their own way, and as long as they’re not being disruptive, why should it matter to anyone else.


David March 14, 2013 at 3:31 pm

ferretrick, that was a great joke.

I need something to wet my throat occasionally or I will start to cough. And it needs to be warm or hot in order to work. So I avoid going anywhere where I would be unable to get or bring a warm beverage. I’d be unable to attend some poster’s churches and able to attend others.


Nancy March 14, 2013 at 3:34 pm

I’m not particularly religious, but some of my coworkers are, and we work third shift. If they want to go to church, they often go right after work on Sunday. I don’t know if they drink coffee or not during services, but I would hope that someone would leave them alone if they did. As it is, staying awake during the sermon is an accomplishment.


Wren March 14, 2013 at 3:39 pm

At my church, lots of adults drink coffee during worship and lots of the little kids use their sippy cups. The little kids eat snacks, too. No teenagers have brought in a bottle of pop to drink during worship yet. I’m not crazy about grown-ups being unable to wait until coffee hour following worship to have their coffee, but our pastor would rather get poked in the eye with a sharp stick than “say something.” BTW, the carpet in the sanctuary has stains all over it and looks awful. Since people who worship there are used to drinking coffee whenever and wherever they want to, I doubt it’ll ever change. It is interesting that the pastor likes to say to his staff that we show the seriousness of situations by how we appear (dress), speak and behave. While it’s true that worship can be joyful, it also involves self-examination of our sins, confession and repentance. Not light-hearted stuff. So why the refreshments during the service???


Elsie March 14, 2013 at 3:43 pm

In the roman catholic faith, traditionally, you’re supposed to fast for 1 hour before taking in the Eucharist (Communion). At my church, kids frequently eat snacks (usually cheerio’s), and I won’t lie – there’s been times where I’ve quietly eaten a snack bar because the alternative is I pass out. I look completely healthy, and I am, just sometimes if I didn’t eat breakfast it gets to me. I’ll add we are a nice church – most people come in their Sunday best, even the kids.

OP, I’m sorry, but if you confront that woman you are committing a terrible action. She is a new attendee. If you approach her, even thinking you are being sincere and a good christian and polite and mean no harm – you run the risk of scaring her off. What’s worse: her quietly drinking something, or you running a curious person out of your faith? You are a member of your faith. You are representing it. All the time. If that woman is being quiet, listening to the priest, and the priest said it was a non-issue – let her be! If she is not causing literal vandalism of the place or injuring others, let her figure out the “unspoken rules” herself. She will get it, have some faith in your fellow christian.

You did the right thing in asking your priest. Listen to his advice & love your fellows. Stop judging them.


Lola March 14, 2013 at 3:56 pm

Busybodies crack me up. Some stranger sipping coffee at a standard weekly church service (not funeral, wedding, or baptism) personally offends them! To many busy, professional people, weekly church service is like another meeting more so than a special event.


Hellbound Alleee March 14, 2013 at 3:58 pm

Shouldn’t you be contemplating the sermon, rather than worrying about others’ behavior? Mote in your neighbor’s eye, log in yours?


Rap March 14, 2013 at 4:05 pm

“And jeans in church? Don’t get me started …”

How does what people are wearing in any way impact their enjoyment of the services or their spirituality, and why would it bother you in any way?


Treeang March 14, 2013 at 4:22 pm

In the Catholic Church, it is a requirement to fast an hour before receiving Communion. For most people it isn’t a problem, as it is about 40 minutes into the service and, unless you were eating on the way, you probably had fasted. The only exception is for medical needs (diabetics, etc). It is in church law and not optional and if someone has not fasted, they are expected not to receive Communion (they can still attend Mass, just not go up to receive) because we believe it is the real Body and Blood of Christ and you don’t want Him mixing with your coffee and donuts. So, in the Catholic Church, it would be very gauche and against the regulations to eat or drink. We have given snacks to our preschool children because we attend the 5:30 p.m. service and sometimes they get hungry for supper.
However, I have also attended services at other denominations and it is always weird for me to see people bringing in their coffee and donuts. If that is the norm and the group is happy with it, I’m fine with it too–I just couldn’t probably do it myself because I don’t think it is part of the respectfulness the service deserves.
With the exception of Catholic services, I think it is up to the pastor/priest/minister and congregation to set the tone and decide what is the norm for the group. And to enforce it–and not give in to the “well, I just want them here, so I am not addressing behavior that the group has decided is inappropriate” That would make me more frustrated.


MollyMonster March 14, 2013 at 4:23 pm

“My other thought – and this may be way off base – is how does anyone know it’s coffee? It could be anything if it’s in a covered mug.”

Coffee has a rather distinct smell.

I…am against drinking/snacking in church. It just seems disrespectful to me. Like you can’t put your drink down for an hour but have to tote it with you even to church? You can’t finish it before coming inside? It is church, not the office or a theater. If food is offered in the lobby, it seems like it would be more polite to finish it out there than to bring it into the sanctuary to minimize mess and to at least appear like you are giving the minister/priest more attention than your danish.

Of course, I was the fast food cashier who hated it when people would start munching on their fries or nuggets while still up at the counter as though the counter were their table. It just felt rude (and I am not talking about snagging a fry or two but rather digging in while waiting for your hamburger to come up in a minute) like they couldn’t be bothered to wait to be seated before chowing down.

I guess different places have different levels of formality, but it would never occur to me to bring my beverage or breakfast into church and I would look in askance at anyone who did.


BostonGal March 14, 2013 at 4:51 pm

This post brought back some memories! When I was a teenager one of my best friends would often leave the service, go the church kitchen, and come back with whatever she could find to snack on during the sermon. I was always floored by this for several reasons (no one else was eating/drinking during the service, my parents would have let me have it if I pulled a trick like that, and the kitchen was usually empty during services so I assumed she was taking food without asking–including matzoh that had not been used during communion). I never said anything, though; if the ushers didn’t stop her, I sure wasn’t going to. I suppose the same holds true in the OP’s situation.


lakey March 14, 2013 at 4:55 pm

As far as the Catholic Church, it would be extremely inappropriate, not only because you are supposed to fast before communion, but because areas of the church itself are considered sacred space, and because Holy Eucharist is a sacrament. You don’t indulge in refreshments while participating in a sacrament.

That being said, I believe that what is appropriate in a specific church should be determined by what is acceptable for that particular religion, or church, or the people who make up the congregation and their pastor. I know that there are protestant churches that are more formal and solemn, but there are also some that have made a point of being relaxed and informal. To me, it would be rude to go into a church that has a formal service and drink coffee. People take their religious views very seriously, and behaving in an inappropriate way in a church is offensive to a lot of people. Then again, a person who wants to sip coffee during a service is free to search out a church that meets their needs. There are churches in my area that would be excellent for this lady with the coffee. Not only do they have a relaxed atmosphere, but they have speakers on interesting topics, and all kinds of social activities. Freedom of choice is a great thing.


White Lotus March 14, 2013 at 5:04 pm

Buddhist Temple. We engage in a practice that requires vocalizing; we don’t just sit and listen. Food and beverages are not allowed in the practice hall (think Sanctuary, but that isn’t exactly the right word) because of spilling issues. If you need to suck a lozenge, do it. If you need to leave briefly to get a drink or use the bathroom, do it.
Despite the signs on the doors to the Practice Hall and pre-ceremony announcements, there is always SOMEBODY who fails to turn off her/his cell phone. If you think you might need to take an urgent call, put the thing on vibrate. We leave ours in our car.
There are beverages other than water available after the ceremony — never before. Someone bringing in coffee or a milkshake or a soft drink would be asked to leave the Practice Hall.


Kimstu March 14, 2013 at 5:06 pm

I’m more used to traditional worship services than to the modern consciously informal “come as you are” type, but I agree that this is more of a “house rules” issue than a clear and blatant etiquette violation. If I belonged to a church and they were taking a poll on whether beverages should be permitted during the service, I’d vote “no” (except for, say, discreet water bottles to deal with health or discomfort issues). But I wouldn’t initiate any complaints about beverage use, either to the officiant or to the person(s) drinking them.

Deep down, though, I guess I do see permitting coffee-drinking during worship services (except very informal ones) as a bit infantilizing, as though we were babies who have to have a bottle handy at all times. Is there really no activity or occasion anymore that we consider important enough to maintain a non-fidgety attentive demeanour for an hour or two, without intermittently stuffing something or other into our pie holes?

Individual eating and drinking, like scratching, stretching, grooming, and so on, are traditionally considered disrespectful in such situations because they symbolize prioritizing our own trivial bodily impulses over concentrating on the purpose of the occasion. I think that symbolism still holds good. For a normal adult with no incompatible medical conditions, respectful attendance behavior still requires sitting quietly with hands in repose and an attentive look, rather than fidgeting around at the mercy of every momentary physical urge.


Cat March 14, 2013 at 5:10 pm

For those confused about the Catholic fast before receiving communion: one is required to fast only if one is going to be receiving communion; the fast is lifted for those who are ill and who require nourishment/liquids for reasons of health; the fast traditionally began at midnight and continued until after one attended mass and that was changed after Vatican II to a one hour fast.
If you were raised Catholic and were unaware of the requirements for receiving communion, whomever taught you your catechism classes was sorely amiss for not explaining it to you. I have found religion teachers giving all sorts of misinformation to their classes and the ignorance of the basics of the faith constantly amazes me.


Crinklestein March 14, 2013 at 5:49 pm

“Many of the churches in my area are VERY snobby to people who wear pants…”
Thank you for the mental image of a congregation where all the men are standing in their Sunday best on top and in their skivvies down below. XD

I agree with the other posters who say that this is definitely a “house rules” situation. Some churches ban food & drink, others don’t.

And may I suggest that we may also consider that the coffee drinking is actually respectful? With apologies to Ben Franklin,”Coffee is proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy.”


denise March 14, 2013 at 6:59 pm

I almost wonder why this question is even up. It seems very simple. I was raised Mormon and I never took a drink into a sacrament meeting because I was taught not to. Each church has its own rules. If a church serves coffee then it’s probably safe. I know it sounds harsh but one of the many reasons I left religion was because of people more concerned about what is in my hands than what is in their own heart.


pinkiu March 14, 2013 at 7:24 pm

Perhaps you are talking about me. We have two services; one traditional and one not. I most often attend the contemporary service but on the months I teach SS, I attend the traditional. While I was used to drinking coffee at my previous church (a megachurch with coffee in the foyer) this church doesn’t have this practice but will soon. I’m guessing the pastor picks his battles since it’s a matter of tradition and not of faith. I’ll think twice now about doing bringing in my travel mug. I’ve not considered the faith aspect of fasting. Since we are not Catholic, fasting an hour prior to a service is not a part of our practice, but I see the value in it as a personal submission. I will give it some consideration.


Donna LeBlanc March 14, 2013 at 8:38 pm

I like to bring a cold bottle of water to my church service because the first 20-25 minutes is standing and singing praise and worship and I sweat so easily; it cools me off (I’m more embarrassed to be wiping sweat from my face than to be drinking from a water bottle).


Baglady March 14, 2013 at 9:02 pm

“Many of the churches in my area are VERY snobby to people who wear pants…”
Thank you for the mental image of a congregation where all the men are standing in their Sunday best on top and in their skivvies down below. XD/quote

You beat me to it! I was wondering if this was a church in Scotland. :)

“And may I suggest that we may also consider that the coffee drinking is actually respectful? With apologies to Ben Franklin,”Coffee is proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy.” ”

I thought he said that about beer. Now a church that would let me drink beer during the service … that’s my kind of church! I consider drinking beer a religious experience and that’s why a bottle opener is called a church key.

But seriously: I was raised Catholic and wasn’t even allowed to cross my legs in church, let alone drink or eat, except at Communion. Eating and drinking during worship (except water to combat dry air/prevent coughing fits) feels all kinds of wrong to me, but I wouldn’t call anyone out on it — it’s none of my business.


waitress wonderwoman March 14, 2013 at 9:46 pm

I have a dear, dear friend that attends church every Sunday and has for every Sunday of his life. He is one of the most Godly men I have ever known, and is truly an example of what a Christian should be. He is also a huge tech gadget-nerd. He has his Bible stored on his Kindle/Nook/Tablet thingie (I’m obviously not a tech gadget savvy person). When he moved to a new town, he joined a new church and that first Sunday, took his handheld computer-screen-looking thingie out to follow the sermon’s scripture on it, he told me several people gave him the evilest, most shocked looks (he even heard one person loudly exclaim, “Why is he even here?”) . After that first service, some actually berated him for “playing” with “it” during church. I guess they thought he was checking his Facebook or playing a game or whatever (I can assure you, he wasn’t). He had to explain to so many people that his Bible was stored in there.
Some people still thought him using such a device was very inappropriate and disrespectful. Others thought it was kinda neat. I personally do. And Ps- he still goes to that church and still uses his electronic Bible every Sunday.


That being said, you really don’t know what or why she was drinking? And, most of all, what difference does it make? Shouldn’t a person be paying attention to what is being preached to grow closer to God and not worry about what anyone else is doing, especially when it really doesn’t effect them at all? Just a thought. Maybe this is one of the reasons why I don’t really attend church too often.


admin March 15, 2013 at 7:58 am

I bring my Kindle to church and follow along with the sermon from my Kindle version of the Bible. My husband has, for years, brought a lap top which he uses to type in notes during the sermon. Being overly concerned with someone else’s alleged sins instead of your own is what we refer to as “sin sniffing”. I have enough problems with my own sin issues without worrying about another person’s. I figure we are all works in progress anyway and if someone really is a follower of Christ, eventually God will deal with whatever sin issues *HE* has with them.


Cordelia March 15, 2013 at 1:12 am

I am really surprised that it is at all acceptable to anyone to snack and drink in the middle of church. Maybe it is not totally out of place at a church with a casual or contemporary-type service. However, it would be very out of place during any traditional liturgical service. If the church has a communion rule of fasting, eating in church could cause others to feel uncomfortable and hungry. If the person were diabetic and in need of sugar, that would be one thing, but nobody needs coffee to live.

How is it that people’s feelings are so fragile that being politely asked to leave their coffee in the car is enough to turn them off from church forever? I thought church was about trying to live a better life, not doing whatever you want and expecting everyone else to smile and nod.

I am Russian Orthodox, and this church requires fasting from midnight for a member who plans to receive communion, and thus eating before or during church is not happening. Someone with an immediate need to eat for health reasons, and little kids, are allowed to eat before communion, but they would normally have their snack at home or in the refectory, not in the middle of the church.

So there is absolutely no reason for any guests to think eating and drinking in our church (apart from communion itself and other foods involved with services) is acceptable behavior. Yet my parish had to add a “no food and drink in church” sign to the door because of visitors coming to look at our icons and frescoes, bringing sodas and food with them. Fortunately this would only happen between services, not during them, but it is still very disconcerting that people would show disrespect for our church by treating it like a day at the park. Nobody eats and drinks in the gallery of an art museum, do they? Shouldn’t a sacred space warrant some respect?


Ruby March 15, 2013 at 4:03 am

I personally believe that snacking and drinking beverages are becoming far too commonplace. Snacks and drinks are everywhere now- it’s no wonder this nation has an obesity epidemic. I people can’t sit through a service without eating or drinking, it’s probably due to habit rather than need. Yes, this goes for small children also. If your child MUST eat cheerios or some snack, give it to them during the drive to churh, or right afyer the service.

A little hunger or thirst will not kill anybody.


Bint March 15, 2013 at 5:18 am

I’m surprised only one other person mentioned the smell. Water does not smell. Coffee does. For that reason alone, I can see why some people wouldn’t like it. Would you bring a coffee into a wedding ceremony? To the theatre? Want to bring some hot food in too so that everyone can smell your freshly baked baguette?

That said, and not having any religious beliefs, it’s weird other people in the congregation care so much. You’re at church. Aren’t you supposed to be concentrating on other things rather than noticing what this woman does “throughout the service”?


delislice March 15, 2013 at 5:50 am

As far as churches go, it’s definitely a “house rules” situation that will vary from house to house. As a recent college graduate, I once visited a church near my apartment on a Sunday morning. I was dressed in a linen-blend navy pantsuit with waistcoat and a button-down blouse. No one said anything, but I was distinctly aware of some “looks” and no one greeted or welcomed me. It was only later that it occurred to me that I was the only woman wearing pants rather than a skirt or dress.

I’ve been in churches where the pastor has made it clear that he thinks it’s disrespectful and out of place to have a beverage in the sanctuary, whether it’s during rehearsals or during worship. I’ve been in churches where the altar guild supplies a little bottle of water to the pastor for his/her use during the service.

And most of the churches I’ve attended, which would class themselves as traditional and which engage in traditional worship, have people dressed in everything from suits to jeans and miniskirts. I’ve watched teenage girls go up to the altar and kneel for communion at the Christmas eve service with silver toenails and platform flip-flops.

I choose to dress more formally because I believe it’s a sign of respect for the occasion and place. However, I would much rather see someone in church — dressed however they choose — than someone unwilling to come in the door and join in worship because they don’t possess nicer clothing, or are not inclined to dress up.

I understand the comments about people unwilling to be parted from their coffee or other drinks and that it seems self-centered and entitled. And maybe it is, sometimes.

But it really is a “house rule.” If the pastor isn’t willing to say something, members might. Or, they might decide to let it go in the name of being welcoming. Or, they might wait a while, see if the coffee cup is habitual, and when they’ve gotten to know the person better, gently explain that it isn’t something this church is OK with.


Not Amused March 15, 2013 at 6:52 am

The friend of the OP is an usher. In my church, ushers are responsible for helping guests, taking care of some responsibilities during the service, and cleanup afterwards. So, it is in this man’s realm of concern to notice beverages, snacks, etc that people bring in, and it is part of his job to discuss with the pastor anything he might be concerned over.

I like that he noticed the lady with the coffee, but asked his pastor about it before he took it upon himself to make her uncomfortable for bringing a drink into service. It is okay to ask, it is okay to be concerned, it is even okay to not like everything others choose to do- it is NOT okay to make a big issue out of something that bothers YOU, but is not an issue to the body, and it is not okay to make others feel unwelcome- especially over something so ultimately trivial.

I am glad the pastor chose to not make a big issue out of something silly. Even if she spilled her coffee, we have wonderful methods of cleaning upholstery (our pews are padded), and PEOPLE are more important than things.


Green123 March 15, 2013 at 9:47 am

@Lea “Church is supposed to be solemn and formal, after all.”



another Laura March 15, 2013 at 9:51 am

This discussion reminded me of Todd Agnew’s song “My Jesus”:
Cause my Jesus would never be accepted in my church
The blood and dirt on His feet might stain the carpet
But He reaches for the hurting and despises the proud
I think He’d prefer Beale St. to the stained glass crowd
And I know that He can hear me if I cry out loud


Sarah Jane March 15, 2013 at 10:01 am

@Rap: By the tone of ElizabethD’s post, I guessed she was joking. At least I hope she was.

@waitress wonderwoman: Our minister keeps his sermon notes on his iPad and brings it to the podium with him. My husband and I (and several other members) use our iPhones to read along with the pertinent Scriptures during the service. Your guy would totally fit in with our crowd.


Tracy March 15, 2013 at 10:29 am

Cordelia said: How is it that people’s feelings are so fragile that being politely asked to leave their coffee in the car is enough to turn them off from church forever?

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?

I don’t drink or eat in church, but there have been times when I really could have used a dose of caffeine. Perhaps this lady needs it as well.


Ally March 15, 2013 at 10:34 am

I’d say this is one of those situations where “What Would Jesus Do?” is appropriate. Remember that Jesus was open and accepting to all comers of his church. He wouldn’t want people shunned in his name over some coffee.


Snarkastic March 15, 2013 at 10:40 am

No snacks in synagogue, no question about it. Whether your a hippie-dippy reformed Jew with your guitar and sandals or a super Orthodox lady with a skirt to your ankles: you’re not getting to eat that Friday night brisket until we all say Amen.

However, High Holiday services are so long, that we wander in and out of the main chapel, so anyone could get some water, go to the restroom, etc. at any time.


Erin March 15, 2013 at 11:11 am

@Ginger G, context is your friend. I don’t go to church either but the OP and her coworkers are so busy noticing that the woman in question brought coffee to church that they ignored the fact that she was at church to begin with. I wasn’t saying you, personally, Ginger G, should go to church. I was saying that if church is important to a person they shouldn’t worry so much about how their fellow worshipers worship but be glad they’re worshiping together.


DGS March 15, 2013 at 11:59 am

I’m Jewish, (I trust despite all the Jesus chat in this particular thread, non-Christians are still welcome on this site), and it would be frowned upon to eat or drink during services unless one was ailing, an infant or an elderly ill person. Kiddush is served on Shabbat and holidays with plenty of food and beverages after the service is completed, but the sanctuary itself is a sacred space, particularly when The Arc is open, so food and beverages would be unacceptable. We also dress up for shul – jeans, t-shirts and such would be unacceptable not out of elitism or snobbery, but simply because they are considered disrespectful to the sacredness of the occasion. The idea is bringing one’s best self to worship G-d, and one’s best self takes care of one’s appearance.

I have been to several Hindu wedding ceremonies, where there was a fully functional open bar, with snacks, set up in the back of the ceremony space, and guests are encouraged to get up and partake during the wedding ceremony. The ceremony is quite lengthy and can last up to four hours, so the expectation is that attendees might get hungry or thirsty. As long as they are not disruptive about it, it is perfectly acceptable to eat and drink during an ancient wedding ritual.


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