Why do so many able-bodied people now adopt what is commonly called the “Protestant crouch” or “Methodist bend” during prayer in church, instead of kneeling?
There are bound to be a variety of reasons that people choose to sit rather than kneel, and crouch or bend forward in the process. Probably more people come to Anglican worship than used to be the case from either no church tradition or one in which kneeling is not normative.
Modern seating arrangements in some churches and cathedrals, particularly when chairs are placed too close together, or kneelers and hassocks aren’t provided, can be inimical to easy kneeling, and lead worshippers to choose alternatives.
Perhaps the greatest factor overall in the decline of kneeling is ageing congregations. As a young man, I would kneel at any and every opportunity, but now my middle-aged agility (or rather the lack of it) means that, while getting down to kneel is still easy enough, getting back up is much harder. I, therefore, tend to kneel rarely nowadays, other than to receive communion but, interestingly, I’ve found that my shoe soles tend to last much longer than they used to.
Maybe it’s worth remembering that standing is the ancient posture for Christian prayer, and that kneeling, as a custom, is a much later development.
Adrian F. Sunman
South Collingham, Notts
The adoption of what is called the “Protestant crouch” or “Methodist bend” in prayer is recent, slovenly, and disrespectful of God. Only kneeling or standing are given in scripture as attitudes of prayer, and when the Puritans, as emancipated sons of God, took to standing as their habitual attitude of prayer, it must be conceded that this was more the pattern of the Early Church than our kneeling.
When I was involved in the Free Church of Scotland in our Church of St Nicholas Cole Abbey in London in the 1980s, their London congregation always stood to pray and sat to sing the Scottish metrical Psalter, unaccompanied of course: for music was a type of the Holy Spirit and unnecessary now we have the reality!
The Wesleyan Methodists, being Anglican in their adoption of the Book of Common Prayer into the 20th century, naturally knelt to pray, and even had a regulation requiring that their pews be separated widely enough to facilitate this.
The Primitive and other Methodists would reverse their chairs and kneel on the seats to pray. Where they had installed tram-like seating, the back would simply be pushed forward to make this reversal and, again, enable them to kneel on the seats to pray.
So, those in touch with their Anglican or Puritan heritage would instinctively know to kneel or stand to pray, and only ignorance and sloth can explain the current popularity of the “so-called” “crouch.”
Alan Bartley, Greenford
Because so many “reordered” churches no longer have anything to kneel on other than the stone floor, thanks to the removal of pews and their replacement with canteen-style chairs.
Rustington, West Sussex
My husband and I are convinced that the reason most people no longer kneel for prayer in church is that, whereas the prayer and hymn books used to be approx. 3 in. x 5 in., and fitted neatly on the ledge on the back of the pew in front, with the advent of Common Worship the book no longer fits the ledge, and this results in a series of loud bangs as the movement of people to kneel dislodges books from their precarious position. Incidentally, when I was at the CMS training college, the accepted term for the crouch was “the shampoo position”.
With three labradors outstretched, self, and husband in a half-box pew in our village church at Syde, the Protestant Crouch is the only practical option.
Caudle Green, Gloucestershire
My late father referred to the above posture as the “lavatorial stoop”.
Ferryhill, Co. Durham
What should a Holy Hour in church on a Thursday evening consist of? Can it be lay-led? We are looking for opportunities during an extended interregnum in an Anglo-Catholic church. A. M.
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