Saturday, April 12, 2014

Polite Request on a Church Website

Yesterday Southpark Christian Church, a Christian Churches (Disciples of Christ) congregation in Charlotte, North Carolina, posted a notice on their website:

THIS SUNDAY is Palm Sunday!
Due to our new parking lot and our new carpet in the sanctuary, we ask that you please remove your shoes before entering the sanctuary for worship. Not only will this help to not track in black asphalt, but it will remind us that we are in a sacred space as we worship together and hopefully encounter God in new and meaningful ways.
Have no worries if you are unable to remove your shoes. We ask that those who are able, help us out with this request. Thank you for your cooperation. Please do not let this keep you from worshiping with us. We hope to see you there.

I am impressed that the elders of this church had the confidence to ask for this. Wanting to keep the carpets clean is a legitimate concern. So many churches have worn out and filthy carpets. A preacher I knew once suggested that all churches should have wood floors, but he was clearly unaware of how much noise would be generated by scraping and traffic on a hard floor.

Notice that the church says this is not mandatory. They are not going to expect elderly or disabled people to remove their shoes. A church can do this without penalizing people who are unable to comply.

I also find this interesting that this request was made by a church in the American South where there is no tradition of shoe removal.

Monday, April 07, 2014

Conversation over lunch

I am on a training course this week. Over lunch I met the partner of one of my colleagues. He had introduced her to this blog and she approved. She said she always asks people to take their shoes off in her home. That is wise, as the couple have a small child. It's always encouraging to meet people with a no-shoes policy.

Saturday, April 05, 2014

Coptic Churches and Removing Shoes

I posted recently about the custom of removing shoes in some Christian churches. A week ago, I came across a forum discussion about the Coptic practice:

Orthodox Scarves Worn During Communion and no shoes a Must for Women??

The Coptic tradition is to remove shoes before entering the sanctuary of the church to receive communion. The original post complains that this results in walking on a floor that is wet and dirty. This seems an understandable complaint; it is not always nice to walk shoeless on a floor that has been walked on by dirty shoes.

The obvious solution would be for the congregation to remove shoes before entering the church, so that the whole carpeted area stays clean. Perhaps they don't do that because they want to emphasize that the sanctuary is the most holy area of the church.

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Catholics, Protestants and Rule-Keeping

Last month I said on this blog that a lot of British people seldom wear shoes in their homes, but have no rule about it. I wonder if part of the reluctance to adopt a hard and fast rule is because we are a Protestant rather than a Catholic culture.

Without wishing to simplify things, the Catholic Church tends to be a little more keen on rules than most Protestant churches. The Catholic Church has definite requirements for it's members. They are required to attend mass every Sunday, to attend confession at least once a year and to keep the necessary fasts and feast days. Of course not all Catholics keep these obligations, but the individual Catholic knows whether or not he or she is doing these things.

In contrast in the evangelical denomination I attend, there is no definite list of what is required of members. I find it rather difficult to know exactly what I am expected to do. I find this tends to collude with my natural laziness and fails to give me much discipline and has therefore contributed to my general lack of devotion. I find I am rather drawn to Catholicism with it's rather more formal disciplines.

I think there is something to be said for rules. They instill a discipline as we keep them.

A family without a shoes-off rule may generally take their shoes off and this helps to keep the house clean. They let guests and visitors come in with their shoes on and this might in itself not make much difference to how clean the floors are. However, their willingness not to require shoes-off of visitors will likely lead the family to be less strict about their own shoe-removal. They will find themselves sometimes keeping their shoes on and being less bothered if their children fail to remove their shoes.

The presence of a rule creates a boundary that ensures consistency.

Sunday, March 09, 2014

Rural Pub

I had dinner today at a pub in a West Sussex village. I noticed a lot of customers had been out walking and were removing muddy boots or shoes to enter the pub in their socks. I don't think I've seen people do that before.

Thursday, March 06, 2014

Sneakers without Socks

Recently I have noticed a lot of girls and women wearing sneakers (we call them trainers in the UK) without socks. Has this come back into fashion?

I remember back in the 90s, a lot of people used to wear sneakers without socks. When I was 15, I went to a barbecue at another kid's house. The weather changed and as we headed inside, he asked us all to take our shoes off. One of the girls was wearing sneakers without socks. She refused to go inside because she did not want to be barefoot. Back then, removing shoes in homes was a lot less common. I often kept my shoes on when visiting friends. These days the girl probably would have expected to have to take her shoes off when going inside.

Sunday, March 02, 2014

Diana Elizabeth: Our No Shoe Rule in Our House

Diana Elizabeth: Our No Shoe Rule in Our House

'I thought I’d write this post to do a little explaining about why we don’t wear shoes in our home – not in any reason to convince you to do the same because I honestly I’m not passionate about this issue one bit, it’s your house and you can do whatever makes you happy! Isn’t that great?
Since I’ve been asked why we decide to go the no shoe route, I thought I’d write a little post why and you can decide if this is a route you want to take one day.'

Put That On Your Blog: Take you shoes off

Put That On Your Blog: Take you shoes off

'In civilized countries like Ukraine, everyone takes their shoes off when they enter a private residence. Beside every door is some kind of shoe cubby with house slippers that you switch into for the duration of your visit.

Now, I hear your American qualms squealing, “Ew! Sharing shoes is unhygenic! What is this, a bowling alley? And doesn’t that take like a gazillion years out of your day to take your shoes off and put them back on every time you go into someone’s house? You’re seriously chipping away at your Candy Crush time with all that added work.”

I thought so when I first moved to Ukraine, too, but you know what is actually unhygenic? Traipsing those shoes that have been all over the Metro across the bedroom carpet your babies crawl on. In my house, we’ve been obeying the no shoe rule for years. In combination with the food stays in the kitchen rule, the no shoe rule has kept our carpets here virtually as pristinely renter beige as the day we moved in–Ack! '

Friday, February 21, 2014

Shoe Removal in Christian Churches

Russian Orthodox Church in Phuket, Thailand

For the most part, Christian churches do not practice removing shoes in places of worship as they do in Islam, Hinduism, Sikhism or Buddhism. In the west, it is not the custom for Christians to remove their shoes in churches (though Roman Catholics go barefoot at some shrines and have historically gone barefoot as a penance). Some of the non-Chalcedonian Orthodox churches, the Ethiopians and Copts remove shoes in their churches.

As Christianity has spread to Asia, many churches founded in Asian countries have followed the local custom of removing shoes, whether out of habit, reverance or simple practicality. This crosses denominational lines; when I went to Japan, I visited a Roman Catholic, an Anglican, a mainstream Protestant church and several Evangelical Protestant churches. Removing shoes was required in all of them.

I was recently reading about Eastern Orthodox missions in Asia. It seems that Russian and Greek Orthodox churches in Asia tend to adopt removing shoes in those countries. I suppose that rather fits with the strong sense of reverence in Eastern Orthodox worship.

Sunday, February 09, 2014

The Current British Norm

Now this is entirely based on my own experiences, informed also by what I have read online. Other people living in the UK may see things differently. I have lived in several different parts of the UK, but I haven't lived everywhere.

The UK is not like Sweden, where everybody removes their shoes in homes. However, it is also not like Spain, where removing shoes in homes is seen as unusual.

I would say that the majority of people in the UK do not wear shoes in their own homes 90% of the time. They may not have a rule, they may sometimes keep their shoes on, but most of the time they take their shoes off in their own homes. They also generally require their children and friends of their children to remove their shoes. This may not be enforced strictly, but this is still an expectation.

Most households will not ask visitors to remove their shoes. However, more often than not, visitors will remove their shoes or at least offer to remove their shoes. This often leads to absurd conversations like this:

Guest: Shall I take my shoes off?

Host: You really don't have to.

(Guest notices shoes by the door)

Guest: I probably ought to.

Host: No, you can keep them on. It's really not a problem.

Guest: I'll take them off anyway.

Host: Thanks, that's nice of you. (It's what she wanted anyway)

Guests are less likely to remove their shoes at parties when they are dressed up, but they might still offer. They are also a little more likely to remove their shoes in winter, though shoe removal in summer is still common.

I would argue on this basis that it is perfectly fine to insist on shoes off as a rule. If you ask your guests to remove your shoes, you are simply asking them to do what most people do most of the time anyway.

Friday, February 07, 2014

Group Conformity

A couple of weeks ago, I joined a newly formed mid-week Bible study group. I had visited the home of the leaders many times. They don't have a shoes-off rule, but most people visiting them tend to take their shoes off.

The first week we met as a group, everybody took their shoes off except one lady who kept her boots on. The next week everybody removed their shoes except her. However, half-way through the meeting she decided to take her shoes off and put them by the door. Although the hosts said it was unnecessary, she must have felt an overwhelming psychological pressure to conform to what everybody else was doing.

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Stellibell Life: Be Swedish and Remove Your Shoes

Stellibell Life: Be Swedish and Remove Your Shoes

'In Sweden (and in my house) we all remove our shoes before entering the house. In the quest of creating a natural and healthy home this is an important step. By removing your shoes you are preventing outdoors contaminants such as pesticides from coming indoors, not to mention saving you time from constantly cleaning. Don’t be afraid to ask your visitors to remove their shoes. They will appreciate you shared a new customs that they can start using as well.'