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Hallo again to all.

Anglicans Online has often been a place for the expression of peculiar opinions: deep interest in gaiters, concern for persons who manufacture cassock-albs, a fondness for simnel cake and dead bishops, devotion to defunct church movements and moribund periodicals, an avocation for finding the same churchly joke told dozens of ways.

Tonight we venture another peculiar opinion: that the Peace—the glad-handing, extended, chatty social interruption of congregational worship—is often an offense against decency and order. More than this, we worry that it is a tacit way for some congregations to ignore the message of every news cycle—that there is no peace—by reassuring themselves of a cozy comfort within the foursquare walls of a church building.

The mutual greeting has a welcome place in summer camps and youth gatherings, in intimate groups of friends who worship together, in a warm acknowledgment to one's immediate neighbors or family that we are in accord with one another before we approach the Lord's Table. It is almost always appropriate in very small congregations. We share in the risen life of one who told us 'Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you.' And we know that the earliest Christians exchanged kisses on the lips at places in the liturgy, and that they also washed one another's feet.* For much of the Church's history, the use of a pax-brede continued something like the custom in a way that made social sense.

But how often have we all gone to churches where the Peace (itself, as now practiced, something only as new as about 1970) is a mini coffee break? Persons who will have ample opportunity to see each other during the course of a week rush across the nave to offer greetings that could be made at any other time. Clergy leave the chancel to shake hands with dozens of congregants in an unnecessary cleavage of the service. It is an occasion for the well-meaning to violate the personal space of strangers with forced hugs and handshakes, an outstretched hand offered while the greeters are often already looking at the next person whose palm they want to grasp.

How often, too, have we been aware that the social Peace is shared in congregations where there are indeed persons at enmity with one another—within a family, within a parish council, within a diocese—who nevertheless shake hands before receiving the Lord's Body even though they have not done the hard work of reconciling with one another over whatever stumbling block is between them? It is not a stretch to say that there is a widespread fulfillment of the prophet Jeremiah's famous text about the woe due to them that say 'peace, peace, when there is no peace'.

There is no peace within our nations or among them, on their borders with one another, within the cities where crowds of innocents become regular targets for terroristic violence. The tranquility of order in the Christian assembly can be an antidote to the world's alternatives of many kinds, but worship must always be a time for strengthening focus rather than merely social affability. If a sincere offering of one's good will to a pew-mate supports the cultivation of the wisdom and courage necessary for the facing of this hour, that builds us up. If the thin geniality only covers the awkwardness we all feel—if we are honest—before a God to whom all hearts are open, all desires known, and from whom no secrets are hid, then the social peace is a burdensome distraction for those who would offer themselves, their souls and bodies, as a reasonable, holy, and living sacrifice.

See you next week.

Our Signatures

Richard Mammana


All of us at Anglicans Online

4 August 2019

*Only Anabaptists now do this with any regularity, and we would not mind the apostolic practice taking place more often in liturgical churches.

**This endnote with no antecedent is to urge you to listen to a lighter look at the custom, Mrs. Beamish.

A thin blue line
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