Greetings in the name of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,
Early on in my time with All Saints (truthfully, it was discussed during the search process), the topic of "exchanging the peace" at All Saints was discussed. Questions and comments like, "Will you tone down or limit the peace?" and "Please don't change the peace, we really love it!" often crept into conversations.
The "Peace" is a liturgical exchange of greeting through word and gesture. It is a sign of reconciliation, love, and renewed relationships in the Christian community. In the early church if you were unwilling to exchange the peace with anyone in good standing in the congregation, you were not allowed to receive communion.
The exchange of the Peace at All Saints can be exceptional and stressful all at the same time. Our exchange of peace is joyful, spirit-filled, distracting and too long according to some parishioners. Having experienced, and participated in, all of these things first hand, I thought it might be time to begin a conversation around the intent and timing of passing the peace during our worship. The bible is filled with references to passing the peace that date back to the time of the New Testament, specifically Romans 16:16, where Paul writes, "Greet one another with a holy kiss."
When I pass and receive the peace at All Saints, I feel love, affection, and greeting. There is no doubt in my mind that this is partly what was intended by including the peace as part of our liturgy on a weekly basis. While these are all great reasons for us to share the peace with one another, none of them are the primary reason. Ultimately, it is the sharing of the peace that is gifted to us by the risen Christ.
In worship, the peace has never been a social time to catch up with our friends whom we have not seen in a while. It is not a time to exchange phone numbers or news of an event or any of the other conversations that take place. There is time for all of these things when we gather together as a community at coffee hour.
Please remember the peace is a sacred time deeply rooted in the beginnings of the church and our belief in Christ as well as recognizing the Christ in each other. I ask everyone to be aware that an extended peace can be "discomforting" to some, especially visitors and guests, as it often becomes a time to touch base with other 'parish' members. When visitors are greeted, it is often perfunctory. While lengthier conversations surround the newcomer, they are often left standing alone until we are called back together. The joy exchanged during the peace at All Saints is hopeful and spirit-filled and we do not want to diminish that. I would ask that we remember these points and be ever mindful of all those who are around us.
May the Peace of God, that passes all understanding, be with you this day and always!
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