Written by Dale Buchanan
One of my favorite parts of Sunday morning worship at Big Red is the time set aside to greet one another with a handshake, or a hug, or the traditional “the peace of Christ be with you” greeting and the response, “and also with you.” I did not realize how much this little greeting ritual meant to me until the concern for infecting each other with the flu prompted its discontinuation last winter. I was delighted when the greeting practice was reinstated.
The stated purpose of this column is to focus on getting to know individual members of the congregation better. “The peace of Christ be with you” greeting gives us an opportunity to speak to those who sit on the wrong side (I mean the other side) of the aisle, as well as those in the pews directly in front of us and right behind us. The front and back greeting requires very little effort and is more-or-less the way I have always practiced this part of my Sunday morning ritual.
Recently, after speaking to those in front of me and in back, I casually looked around and observed the greeting ritual in full swing. It is true than many, like me, were still in their pews. But amazingly many of the congregation had stepped out of the pews and with happy smiles on their faces were busily greeting one another up and down the length of the sanctuary.
This greeting time is limited and some seem reluctant to get too far from their seats, but I have observed that the folks that have to hurry back to hear the sermon appear to be blessed from their interaction—brief as it may be—with fellow worshipers. There is a relaxed atmosphere that is almost tangible. There are smiles passed as the late-comers step on the toes of those who stay put because it is all right.
I have watched this greeting time very carefully for several weeks now and must conclude that no other part of our worship time evokes quite the same response from the pews. The only other time we collectively step from the pews is when we go forward for Communion where we rightly adopt a serious and solemn demeanor.
It seems to me that those who take advantage of the opportunity to step out of their pews, extend their hands, and greet one another are on to something.
I came here four years ago hurt and angry and determined to sit in my pew and be still. I have resisted those smiles and warm greetings far too long. I am resolved to step out of my pew and share “the peace of Christ” with you. Please forgive me if I get back to my pew late.
The contagion passed among those Sunday morning greeters is indeed worth catching.
P.S. I composed this before the current flu epidemic. Caution demands the suspension of this delightful practice for the present time, but you can bet that I will be first in line when it is once again safe to offer “the peace of Christ be with you” greeting.