Clapping in Church

Do you clap in church?

Perhaps I should clarify a little. Do you clap along to the music played in church? If you attend a charismatic church, you’d probably say, “Sure!” If you’re Episcopalian, more likely you’d answer, “Of course not.”

But there’s a vast in-between out there. Growing up, I went to a mostly non-clapping church. Occasionally (usually at revivals), clapping would break out. I never felt comfortable with it, though — blame it on my German heritage or natural reticence.

At my current church, there’s about a 50/50 split. Interestingly, the clappers tend to sit in the front half of the sanctuary, while their quieter brethren usually congregate closer to the back.

I’ll never forget a church service I attended during my 20’s, with a friend, at her decidedly “wilder” church. It was in a strip mall (no, I am not making this up), and to my horror, my friend guided me up to the second row, front and center. The music was quite spirited, and the congregants were not only clapping, but swaying and — dare I say it — “dancing” a bit as well. I stood there, hugely uncomfortable. The pastor stepped up to the pulpit and spoke over the music, urging us, “Don’t stifle the Spirit!” I was now not only feeling awkward, but I had the added burden of suspecting that I was a suspected Spirit-stifler as well.

There’s another time when the issue of clapping in church surfaces. After a musical group performs “special music” (or whatever your particular flavor of church calls it), is there applause? It’s always seemed wrong to me — clapping seems more fitting for a concert. And no one ever claps after the sermon. Yet, often when the solo ends, there’s an uncomfortable pause. Should I clap?

I was on the other side of this recently. I played O Holy Night during the offertory at church. I played it on the piano in front of the church, not on the organ up in the balcony, where I usually sit. I would venture that this resulted in the applause that broke out after I finished. I was pretty surprised; this a community of very non-showy, quiet Lutheran farmers.

I kind of did a (hopefully) subtle nod from the bench and hurried back to the organ. After church, I was walking across the parking lot, when a lady looked up at me. “That was so beautiful!” she said. “Thank goodness someone clapped!”

Hmmmm. Thank goodness someone clapped?

“Oh, I don’t know,” I said, “I’m never comfortable clapping in church.”

She nodded. “Oh, me neither!” she said, and we went our separate ways.

church from the organ balcony

The view from the church balcony — where there’s no clapping going on!

I don’t honestly have any idea whether God would be a clapper or not, but I figure He must have a good laugh about the arguments His people get into over the issue. After all, He made us with all different temperaments and personalities — clappers and non.

So: do you clap in church?

 

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5 thoughts on “Clapping in Church

  1. I’ve always gone to non-clapping churches. I had a charismatic friend in high school and went to one her “wild” meetings, so I can identify with your feelings there. 🙂

    I have mixed emotions about it. In the Christian college I attended, we clapped at any other kind of concert, but were specifically asked not to clap at sacred concerts or church services. I think one feeling is that clapping calls attention to the performer and away from the message. Yet at church we’ll sometimes break into spontaneous applause when a children’s choir performs, as an encouragement to them, or we’ll be asked to give a round of applause when the pastor publicly commends someone (like the person in charge of the children’s pageant or the people who put on a special banquet, etc.) as a show of appreciation. So in principle I don’t have a problem doing the same thing for those who do special music, but in practice I do think it would be distracting if we clapped every time. Usually the special music is right before the sermon, and meant to prepare our hearts for it, and to me clapping would take away from that a bit. We tend more toward saying a round of quiet “Amens” after special music.

    If I were in a church that clapped, though, I probably would.

    I do think it is important that clappers or hand-raisers not judge those who don’t and vice verse. I once read a post by someone who was on the platform of a meeting where people raised their hands and various other things, and the worship leader was encouraging people to do so to the point that this person felt she was standing out by not doing so, yet she knew if she did it wouldn’t be a sincere expression of worship, but rather conformity to the crowd. I’ve seen people swaying with their eyes closed at a service referred to as someone really deeply worshiping, and she might have been, but worship isn’t necessarily manifested in that way. Some of us worship in our own hearts without feeling the need for those outward manifestations, but we also need to be careful not to judge those who do worship in those ways. Those of us who are more conservative tend to look askance at the lone hand-raisers in our midst, but if that works for them, that’s fine. (I’m not saying your post was about judging one way or the other, but it just touched off these thoughts in my own mind as I have too often seen people judge each other on this type of issue.)

    Wow, I didn’t mean to take up so much space on your blog!! Maybe I should have written my own post, LOL!

  2. I am not a swayer, hand raiser or clapper. I do not like clapping after special music. That turns it more into a show in my opinion.

  3. YES,,,,I clap in church,,,The Bible tells us to make a joyful noise unto the Lord. To give Him praise and glory,,,and to honor Him . Read Psalms 150……….

  4. Our church claps only after a special number, but we usually do not have a “church special”. The choir sings every Sunday and no one claps for that. Actually, I can see both sides of the argument, but I am old-fashioned and prefer very little clapping during a church service.

  5. I am not a clapper. In fact, I find it distracting when someone claps after special music. I agree, the special music is to call attention to the Lord, not to the performer. Therefore, clapping is inappropriate in my opinion. It is becoming ever more common in the church I attend, much to my dismay. I feel one can make a joyful noise in his/her singing without having to slap his/her hands together. There are also other ways to give him praise and glory. In fact, I think clapping usually gives glory to the clapper rather than to the Lord.

    I think you can probably tell that you’ve pushed a button for me, Susan.

    There IS one time when I think clapping is appropriate. We often applaud service members on appropriate days. In my opinion, anyone who fought in the Battle of the Bulge or on the shores of Normandy deserves far more than a simple round of applause. And we use it to recognize exceptional anniversaries. If a couple has stuck together for 60 or more years, they too deserve a round of applause in my opinion.

Thanks for taking the time to comment. I enjoy hearing your thoughts.