Monday, March 12, 2012

Let Peace Begin With Me

Sometimes passing the peace in worship can be an uncomfortable experience.

There's hand-shaking.  There's speaking to people.  Sometimes there's even hugging involved.

But is it necessary?  You bet.

For several months now, in our "Traditional" worship service, we've been passing the peace on Communion Sundays.  Not only that, but instead of saying our usual Affirmation of Faith (or Creed) we begin worship with a corporate Prayer of Confession, followed by the Words of Assurance from our Pastors, then comes the Peace.  Rather than trying to hurriedly squeeze it all in after the sermon, when it's Communion Sunday, we make it all about Communion.  As a worship design, I'll admit, I've borrowed it from my previous clergy team; it just makes the service feel whole and it makes the sacrament feel less like an appendage to be added on once a month.

It's been interesting though to sit back and listen to the comments ... There are no objections to public confession, but Passing of the Peace ... Well ... It's not caught on like wild fire.  Which of course, to me signals that we're not Passing the Peace enough.

At our "Contemporary" service we have a formal/informal greeting time every Sunday morning, after the first song of the praise set.  It's an important part of the service for the congregation, and while there might not be a lot of peace-passing specifically, there's a lot of hospitality extended.

Although, when I look up hospitality, it's defined as: 
1. the friendly reception and treatment of guests or strangers.
2. the quality or disposition of receiving and treating guests and strangers in a warm, friendly, generous way.
With the specific emphasis on strangers in the definition of the word, I'm probably going to have to rethink how much hospitality is truly being shown on Sunday morning.  But that's probably for another blog entry, so as to avoid a little snarkiness at this juncture.

To get back to the Peace, we need to be doing more of it.  So, to get us into the habit of reconciling with one another, we've taken it on as a Lenten worship discipline in our traditional service to follow the United Methodist Book of Worship pattern, with the Confession, Pardon, and Peace every Sunday during the Season of Lent in place of our Affirmation of Faith.  We've adopted it in the spirit of the Lord's Prayer, where Jesus laid this one on us:
"And forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us." Matthew 6:12
The people aren't really leaving their pews, which is ok.  Because after all, who do we often need to reconcile with more than our own families?

To complete the Peace, we wrap it up with the chorus to the gospel hymn by Margaret Douroux, "Give Me a Clean Heart".  This keeps our "new heart" theme of Ash Wednesday going, always praying for that renewal of the heart, so that we can keep the ministry of the Gospel moving forward.  And the results have been so encouraging, I mean, they're Passing the Peace.

And if we really think about it, it's fundamental for the local church to be able to Pass the Peace within the church's doors.  Our call is to be a peaceful people, and fulfill the vision of the Peaceful Kingdom that Christ came to bring us.  Christians have to be able to do that with one another; how else are we to show Christ to the world?

Does your church Pass the Peace on a regular basis?