A dear friend from our college days surprised us with a visit for worship a while back. It was great to see him and to catch even the few brief minutes we had for conversation before he had to leave. At the end of the day there were, of course, the requisite reflections on his visit posted on Facebook…including a comment from our friend about the “Sharing of the Peace-a-palooza” which is a part of our practice.
Just to explain: the sharing of the peace of Christ takes a few minutes in this place. I know that some of the liturgical purists would find it overdone while the pathologically introverted almost certainly find it horrifying. But the folks here seem to enjoy leaving their pews and warmly greeting one another as sisters and brothers renewed by the grace of the Savior. It is noisy and a bit chaotic, and visitors are certainly not ignored in the process. Hence, our dear friend’s comment.
I’ve wondered at times (liturgy nerd that I am) if we haven’t gotten a bit out of hand. But the pastor in me is loathe to rein it in. There are so few places in this world where folks of all stripes and means are genuinely welcome or where they might be joined in true community. The Church, it occurs to me, must always be that place…even if it’s a bit messier than we would like. There’s a missional aspect to this, too. Our identity as Christ’s disciples is undergirded to great degree by that “mutual conversation and consolation of the saints” (thanks, Brother Martin) which affirms that, as we are Christ’s, we are also members one of another (and thanks, St. Paul). From simple things like sharing the peace with a hug, a handshake and a good word comes the strength to bear God’s grace outside the walls of the congregation’s building, confident that we do not stand alone but are borne up by the rest of the baptized in witness to the world which God seems determined to reconcile.
Self-justification for our existing practice? Maybe. But I’m willing to take that risk if the peace-a-palooza in here means a more faithful and engaged presence “out there.”
Original 5Dec2011; re-posted