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.
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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