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.