I respect the opinion of the marvelous Executive Director of the Massachusetts Council of Churches, the Rev. Laura Everett, who started a tiny Twitter dust-up by posting this [click on the image to enlarge it]:
I don’t find that offensive. I don’t visit as many churches as Laura does, but when I do I often arrive late because I’m notoriously bad at finding new locations when I haven’t had enough sleep or coffee. When I see this sort of notice in the bulletin, I am grateful that the ushers have a set time to seat latecomers so that I don’t have to figure it out myself (I don’t know the liturgy, so I’d rather not guess when the best time would be to find a seat), and the ushers don’t have to get anxious wondering what the best moment might be to seat me or let me in.
Laura writes that she gets a sense of “don’t disturb our performance” from this detail in the program. That’s interesting to think about. When I attend worship as a visitor, I hope that it will be a carefully planned and executed liturgy, with excellent production values. I understand that that’s a traditional preference but I am not attracted to casual services, as I find them nerve-wracking and often even embarrassing. To me, the “Latecomers seated” suggests that this faith community knows and respects its liturgy, respects those who are leading and attending it enough to set boundaries around it, and is actually considerate of the latecomer by acknowledging that we’ll undoubtedly be present and because we will be, they want us to know when to join the service in an appropriate way.
Thanks, Laura! So — what do you all think?