Do you find the church’s tradition of ‘sharing the peace’ confusing? Read our latest article “Happy Easter – You Matter!”
If you’re not a regular ‘churchgoer’, you could be (and are!) forgiven for finding the church’s tradition of ‘sharing the peace’ a little mystifying.
After all, by the time you are invited to shake hands with those around you, you’ve probably already been inside the building a good half an hour. And you may even have already shaken hands with the person who handed you the hymnbook.
And even among those of us who’ve been ‘churchgoers’ for some years, many would have to admit if we were put on the spot that we’re not altogether clear what it’s all about. Perhaps we know that the traditional greeting as we turn to our pew neighbour is “Peace be with you”, but maybe we’ve never thought much beyond the idea that we are perhaps ‘making peace’ with each other before we take communion.
There’s certainly something of that in the root of this tradition – a response, in other words, to Jesus words in his Sermon on the Mount: “So when you are offering your gift at the altar, if you remember that your brother or sister has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go; first be reconciled to your brother or sister, and then come and offer your gift.”
The reality however – as we turn to each other in the pews at Caldecote Church – is that even if we do feel ‘at odds’ with someone in the church, the format of what is known as The Peace hardly gives time to start working out our issues! So is it just a meaningless token? How can we make the most of this regular part of our services?
At its simplest, The Peace reminds us that in fact none of us are ‘churchgoers’ – Church isn’t something we go to, it’s something we are. Together, we are God’s people – all equal, all flawed, all needing God’s grace. At its simplest, turning to greet the person sitting behind us says: “You count!” It’s an acknowledgement that we are all equal recipients of the grace and peace of God that comes to us through Christ’s death – which we remember during our Good Friday service at Childerley Chapel – and his resurrection, which we celebrate at St Michael’s on Easter Sunday.
Sharing The Peace is, in other words, a way of saying “Happy Easter” throughout the year.
Dona McCullagh (Churchwarden)All faith-related articles