To remove your hat upon entering the edifice devoted to the worship of a Higher Power, is a sign of respect never to be omitted. Many men will omit in foreign churches this custom so expressive and touching, and by the omission make others believe them irreverent and foolish, even though they may act from mere thoughtlessness. If, however, you are in a country where the head is kept covered, and another form of humility adopted, you need not fear to follow the custom of those around you. You will be more respected if you pay deference to their religious views, than if you undertook to prove your superiority by affecting a contempt for any form of worship. Enter with your thoughts fixed upon high and holy subjects, and your face will show your devotion, even if you are ignorant of the forms of that particular church.
If you are with a lady, in a catholic church, offer her the holy water with your hand ungloved, for, as it is in the intercourse with princes, that church requires all the ceremonies to be performed with the bare hand.
Pass up the aisle with your companion until you reach the pew you are to occupy, then step before her, open the door, and hold it open while she enters the pew. Then follow her, closing the door after you.
If you are visiting a strange church, request the sexton to give you a seat. Never enter a pew uninvited. If you are in your own pew in church, and see strangers looking for a place, open your pew door, invite them by a motion to enter, and hold the door open for them, re-entering yourself after they are seated.
If others around you do not pay what you think a proper attention to the services, do not, by scornful glances or whispered remarks, notice their omissions. Strive, by your own devotion, to forget those near you.
You may offer a book or fan to a stranger near you, if unprovided themselves, whether they be young or old, lady or gentleman.
Remain kneeling as long as those around you do so. Do not, if your own devotion is not satisfied by your attitude, throw scornful glances upon those who remain seated, or merely bow their heads. Above all never sign to them, or speak, reminding them of the position most suitable for the service. Keep your own position, but do not think you have the right to dictate to others. I have heard young persons addressing, with words of reproach, old men, and lame ones, whose infirmities forbade them to kneel or stand in church, but who were, doubtless, as good Christians as their presumptuous advisers. I know that it often is an effort to remain silent when those in another pew talk incessantly in a low tone or whisper, or sing in a loud tone, out of all time or tune, or read the wrong responses in a voice of thunder; but, while you carefully avoid such faults yourself, you must pass them over in others, without remark.
If, when abroad, you visit a church to see the pictures or monuments within its walls, and not for worship, choose the hours when there is no service being read. Even if you are alone, or merely with a guide, speak low, walk slowly, and keep an air of quiet respect in the edifice devoted to the service of God.
Let me here protest against an Americanism of which modest ladies justly complain; it is that of gentlemen standing in groups round the doors of churches both before and after service. A well-bred man will not indulge in this practice; and, if detained upon the step by a friend, or, whilst waiting for another person, he will stand aside and allow plenty of room for others to pass in, and will never bring the blood into a woman’s face by a long, curious stare.
In church, as in every other position in life, the most unselfish man is the most perfect gentleman; so, if you wish to retain your position as a well-bred man, you will, in a crowded church, offer your seat to any lady, or old man, who may be standing.