Monday, April 23, 2012

Are You Reaching Across the Aisle?

1 Peter 5:14
Greet one another with a kiss of love.  Peace to all of you who are in Christ.

For many years, I attend the Episcopal Church.  My children are raised in it.

The liturgy is uplifting.  Comforting in its routine.  Majestic in its language.

And, formal.  Very formal.

There is a point in the service called "The Peace".  This is the moment before the Holy Eucharist where the congregation is encouraged to greet each other in the name of the Lord.

"The peace of the Lord be always with you," intones the priest.

"And, also with you," comes the staid response.

Then, we shake hands with and greet those sitting next to us or in front of us or behind us.

There is never any effort to mingle with anyone a few rows up or back.  And, God forbid, one should traipse across the aisle to the other side!

So, as people tend to gravitate toward the same pews each Sunday, we end up more like a mutual admiration society instead of reaching out to anyone new or different in the name of Christ.

I join the Methodist Church where Danny worships before we get married.  Although I love the contemporary service, it takes me awhile to abandon myself wholly to it.  After all, I have years of traditional worship under my belt.

Now, as Danny and I help to lead this service, my favorite part to watch is the "Passing of the Peace" which we call "Meet and Greet".

As soon as the signal is given, the members are like eager students flooding the playground at recess.  There is no aisle too wide to traverse.  No visitor who goes unacknowledged.  

They hug, they smile, they reach out in genuine Christian love to one another.

It's a no-holds-barred free-for-all!

And, so amazingly joyful and wondrous to behold.

The marvelous peace of our Lord made manifest.
How do you "pass the peace" where you worship?

Will you join me in prayer?
Father, may we, as Christians, always greet each other with love and joy.  Help us to reach across the aisle to those who are new to our church or those we have not greeted before.  Open our hearts to see Christ in every person.  Amen.

Psalms 25 or 9, 15
Exodus 18:13-27
1 Peter 5:1-14
Matthew (1:1-7), 3:1-6 


  1. I do love this about our church. I think there is a genuine effort to greet others although I suspect that we do still stay somewhat close to our "home pew" even when greeting others. This past Sunday I visited my brother in Tennesse and attend the Methodist church that he attends. It was a very traditional worship service with a typical passing of the peace few moments, however, here was an additional touch that I thought was very symbolic; at the end of the service just before the benediction, everyone was instructed to take the hand of someone nearby and to hold the hand throughout the benediction. What a great lesson it was in how we are all connected as we leave the service. It was my favorite part....

    1. Thanks so much for stopping by today, Lynne!
      Wow! I, too, like what was done at your brother's church. Think Wallace and Emily would go for it? That's a marvelous way to send everyone back out into the world, knowing we are a united community.
      Blessings to you!

  2. That was one of my favorite things to do in church, I remember looking around and see all the warm welcoming smiles. Hands being stretched out in pure acceptance. Thanks for sharing Martha.

    1. Thank you so much for visiting today, Debbie!
      I'm glad this has been a wonderful moment for you at your church. It is such a reaffirming moment in worship.
      Blessings to you!

  3. Oooo this is one thing that we don't usually do in a big church. We nod to acknowledge people but I do hope we get to make each other feel real peace reaching across to one another :)

    I pray with you,May the peace that we bring be genuine and real love, concern and joy be felt through it.

    Thank you for your reflections today. I'll be more aware of how I give it even outside the church :)

    1. So happy to see you here, Melissa!
      If I remember correctly as so many of my childhood church experiences are few, people recited the "peace" and that was it. There was no meeting and greeting during the service. As you attend the Catholic church which is heavily traditional, I can see this not being implemented.
      But, yes, let us pray to always bring the peace of Christ in love to others - everyone we meet!
      Blessings to you!

  4. Like Melissa said, it's quite formal in the Catholic church, but in smaller chapels and group gatherings even hugs are encouraged.

    1. Great to see you here, Corinne!
      Yes, it is harder in a large church. Our contemporary service is a smaller group, between 70 to 100 each week, and it does make it easier for folks to make the rounds.
      Blessings to you!


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