To Clap or Not To Clap…

Rev Jeremy Smith

Every Sunday, I’m incredibly aware of the enormous amount of work that people put into the 10:30am worship service.

  • The bulletin is crafted by the Administrative Assistant in consultation with the Clergy and the Music staff, printed on a copier maintained by the Church Administrator, delivered by the Ushers, and recycled by the Custodians.
  • The worship space has flowers donated by members and arranged by Marty, clean surfaces and lights turned on by the Custodians, choir space and musical equipment painstakingly maintained by the Music staff, an organ that Jonas cares for, and sound ran by Gordon.
  • The announcements and call to worship is done by a lay-elected volunteer Lay Leader who takes a ton of information and boils it down as neatly as possible.
  • The Prelude, Choral Amen, Anthems, Offertory Music, Choral Response, and Postlude are chosen by the Music Staff  and performed by the Chancel Choir or individual musicians or even our children’s choirs or handbells.
  • The hymns are chosen by the Clergy in consultation with the Music Staff.
  • The sermons, order of worship, children’s time, and prayers are done by the Clergy.
  • Children’s Sunday School is offered every Sunday by at least 14 volunteer Sunday School Teachers and two Nursery Workers.
  • The banners are hung by the Custodians per the season, and at this time of year the Shovel and Rake Gang got the Trees up (and they care for the pew materials weekly, did you know that?).
  • The Greeters stand outside in the cold (there’s even one at the MAX station entrance most Sundays) and answer people’s questions and get newcomers directed to the right place.
  • The Stephen’s Ministers are available after worship for prayer and conversation with those who are in spiritual need.
  • In addition to bulletin handouts, the Ushers assist with Communion, collect Communication Cards, collect the offering, present it during the Offertory Prayer, and ensure the offering makes its way to a secure place after worship.
  • And many more people that I’ve somehow forgotten!!

The vast majority of the above people are volunteers and give their time to the glory of God. And while they do not ask for recognition, I find myself silently appreciating them at every turn of the worship service.

I’m aware there is some disagreement over whether to clap at the end of a worship service or segment of the worship service.

Some feel it is appropriate to give appreciation to a meaningful part of worship, others feel silent contemplation is better recognition. Given that applause is found in the bible (see Psalm 47:1,5-6 and Psalm 98:4-9 for examples), this conversation has likely been around longer than some poundcakes that I remember from church potlucks when I was a child.

I don’t have any specific wisdom to share in this matter (although I found “A Theology of Clapping” in a google search…start reading from part 1).

However, I am always mindful that Sunday Morning is always about God. We consider Sundays to be the Sabbath when the people are ideally called to give all their energies not to their labors but to contemplating and praising God. Even the clergy and Choir/Music staff who do most of the labor during the worship service do so to enable the congregation to worship easily and effectively (and in turn the Choir/Music Staff are hopefully as illuminated by the sermons and prayers as the clergy are by their musical offerings).

My hope is that when we applaud that we do so in “thankful for a worthy offering to God” way rather than an evaluation of a performance or action. Even this past Sunday when we received 7 new members to our congregation, we applaud to give thanks that God is working in their lives. Even this past Sunday when we were graced with a Magnificat Cantata, we applaud thankful for the divine gift of music that gives life to the story of Mary. It really is up to each individual as to decide whether they are truly applauding an action of humans (not appropriate) or applauding an action of God’s (entirely appropriate).

So don’t clap. Or clap. Whichever action best suits your thankfulness for an offering to God. And the person in the pew next to you may or may not clap, based on what works for them. No judgment on them, okay? A reflective heart and a willing spirit are all that God requires to work changes in our individual and communal lives, and that begins with how we see what is really happening on Sunday Morning.

I hope our mindfulness even to the smallest of actions like two hands clapping can lead to radical changes in our relationship with God and one another this Advent season.

Blessings and see you Sunday.

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