Worshipping with Our Bodies

Credit: rudall30 / Thinkstock

When attending an Anglican worship service you will notice different people standing, sitting, keeling, and making various gestures throughout the service. What is behind these unique motions? I would like to address some of the common worship postures and gestures that you may encounter when worshipping in an Anglican worship service.

If you think about it, worshiping God involves our bodies as well as our minds and emotions. Anglican worship engages the full senses hearing, smelling, tasting, and touching. For worship, Anglicans sometimes use the adage, “Kneel for prayer, stand for praise, sit for instruction.” Here area few common gestures that you will encounter in an Anglican worship service.


The first is bowing in the worship service. Bowing is a sign of reverence and to recognize God’s presence. For instance, it is typical to bow when passing an altar or when the Cross passes by one during a procession or when the Gospel is read aloud.


The second is the sign of the Cross, which symbolizes God’s blessings on us through Christ’s cross and it also expresses our trust in God. The sign of the Cross is made with the right hand, from forehead to chest, then from left shoulder to right.


The last gesture is kneeling during the service. This act is called Genuflection, which is a fancy word which means kneeling briefly on the right knee and returning upright. It is appropriate to genuflect in respect and honor of our Lord when approaching or passing an altar. People sometimes genuflect as they leave their pew to go to communion and as they return.

If you are coming from a low-church background, the Anglican worship service can seem a little intimidating at first. Please don’t be intimidated by all the gestures. In Anglican worship, none of these gestures are mandatory. Remember that you are welcome to use those gestures that aid your worship, and that they are entirely optional. If you find them helpful, then use them. They are designed to give glory to God and assist you in the worship of God.


Winfield Bevins has a passion for equipping others to spread the gospel in their own context. He serves as the Director of Asbury Seminary’s Church Planting Initiative. As a seasoned practitioner, he has used his experience to train leaders from diverse backgrounds on three different continents. He frequently speaks at conferences, churches, seminaries and retreats on a variety of topics. He is the author of several books, including Church Planting Revolution, Field Guide for Daily Prayer and Ever Ancient, Ever New. He and his wife Kay, have three beautiful girls Elizabeth, Anna Belle, and Caroline.