All Saints Messenger - August 24, 2017

posted Aug 24, 2017, 12:15 PM by Church Secretary
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Greetings in the name of  Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, 

Recently, a discussion at Vestry meeting brought up the perceived rowdiness of the Passing of the Peace.  We discussed it for a while reflecting on its purpose and the stated concerns and decided I would try something new at last Sunday's 8AM service during the Passing of the Peace. At that service I asked parishioners to pass the peace just to those they could reach without moving out of their pews.

The rite itself went fine, yet afterwards as parishioners were departing, the topic came up again and again. "I didn't like not being able to greet everyone"; "The Peace was how I got to be known and how I got to know others" were just a few of the comments I heard. If I am honest with myself, I also noticed a reduced sense of energy and joy which, of course, is the exact opposite of what we hope for.

So I'm going to attempt something else: According to The Episcopal Dictionary, 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." Of course, the challenge for us comes with how we DO the "exchange of greeting through word and gesture."

It has been said that it is a bit ironic that the part of our service which we call the Peace is often the least peaceful part of our worship. I've heard the terms, "chaotic, hippie love fest, part election campaign" when some talk about the exchange of the Peace. Additionally, as a welcoming and inclusive church we have to be aware of the guests and those new to our traditions in our midst. To be truly hospitable is to be aware of those new to us and to include them "Fully."

We need to remember that some guests, and if we are truthful, probably some of our own members are introverts and might rather have a root canal than have to struggle through a long and drawn out Peace. I have also heard some say "I went to a church where only one or two people greeted me, yet the rest of the congregation was enthusiastically greeting those they knew and were their friends. I wondered if I was already labeled as part of the "out" crowd."

The Peace is the time of the service where we are expected to extend Christ's peace, to be at one with Christ's family before we receive Christ's Body and be at unity with Christ and one another. Maybe, just maybe, at the Peace we reach first, not to friends and family (who we will have ample opportunity to share and greet them after the service) but to the visitor, the guest, the stranger, the lonely, the isolated, the one who can do nothing but receive without giving back. It does not mean family and friends are to be ignored; but if they are given a ritual handclasp and a "Peace be with you," then perhaps there will be enough time to greet more folks before the Eucharist begins.

In closing, I recall the following personal experience: We were a young Episcopal family, probably only two years in to this new and strange tradition (I had been Presbyterian, Chris had been raised Roman Catholic) and a woman and her quadriplegic son settled into a pew a few rows back one Sunday. During the Peace our daughter Emma seemed to sense that others were uncomfortable and the mother and son were not getting much "Peace" attention. Emma drifted back took the young man's hand in hers and said, "The Peace of the Lord be always with you." He could not respond, his face did not change. His mother's eyes filled with tears as she mouthed, "Thank You." The mother and son remain in that parish to this day.

See ya Sunday
Fr. Gary+