- The Washington Times - Friday, December 29, 2000

LONDON Church of England leaders are urging worshippers to kneel when praying amid growing concern that fewer people are adopting the practice during services.

The bishop of Lancaster, the Rt. Rev. Stephen Pedley, has organized a campaign to revive kneeling, and other bishops are echoing his views.

"Over the past few years I have noticed the death of kneeling," he said in his latest diocesan newsletter. "People crouch, they stand, they sit, in extremis they appear to lie down: but hardly anyone kneels.

"Is it because kneeling is uncomfortable? Or are we so aging that old bone and old minds can no longer conceive of kneeling? Are we simply too embarrassed to kneel. Why is it that God no longer draws us to our knees? Is it just indifference?"

The bishop said Anglicans should regain the habit of kneeling to pray before the start of church services, at the end of services and during intercessions.

While making kneelers and decorative hassocks was a "cottage industry," Bishop Pedley said, they are not being used for their proper purpose.

"Two thousand years ago, the glory of God shone in the face of Jesus Christ," he said. "Does not that bring us to our knees in humility, reverence, wonder, penitence and joy?

"Well, it brings some of creation to its knees. There is an ancient story that on the first Christmas Day the ox and ass were the first to kneel and worship the incarnate Lord. Where the animals lead, I guess we might follow."

The bishop of Basingstoke, the Rt. Rev. Geoffrey Rowell, said he was equally concerned about the trend to kneel less.

"Every word for worship in the Bible means not only to kneel, but probably to prostrate oneself," he said. "We are bodies as well as souls, and how we actually use our bodies signals things. There is a kind of attentive sitting which is appropriate for meditation, but if you never kneel, something very important has been lost from our body language. And because this informs the way in which we are as living personal beings, it is not without its significance.

"Kneeling is a gesture of adoration in the end. The psalmist says, 'Let us come in and kneel before the Lord who made us.' That's the primary thing."

The bishop, a former Oxford academic and member of the church's doctrine commission, said the Anglican Church needed to learn from the Roman Catholics, Muslims and Orthodox Church.

The decline in kneeling was confirmed by Simon Finch, managing director of Hayes and Finch, one of the country's leading ecclesiastical suppliers.

"I'm a Catholic, and in the Catholic Church the majority of the time is spent kneeling," he said. "Although you might find hassocks [kneeling cushions] in Anglican churches, on the whole people don't tend to kneel. They have a lazy attitude in crouching over the bench to give the impression of kneeling."

Monsignor Kieron Conry, a spokesman for the Catholic Church, however, warned against insisting that congregations kneel.

"As a practice, kneeling is much less common even in Catholic services," he said. "People reflect more on why they do things. Many find that they can be equally reverential standing or even sitting, rather than kneeling because they have always knelt. To tell people to kneel is carping."

Sign up for Daily Newsletters

Copyright © 2019 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

The Washington Times Comment Policy

The Washington Times welcomes your comments on Spot.im, our third-party provider. Please read our Comment Policy before commenting.


Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide