Start Passing the Peace: Part 1, Think About the Introverts!

On Friday in my post about the Bible study I lead out at the prison I mentioned that, outside the Eucharist, my favorite part of the liturgy is the passing of the peace.

I also mentioned that my church doesn't pass the peace and that I wish we did.

So I'd like to follow up with a few posts this week to make the argument that every church should pass the peace. Because a lot of churches, particularly low-church Protestants like my church, don't pass the peace. And they should.

I'm going to get to some important theological and political reasons for why we should pass the peace each Sunday, but let me start today with a simple, pragmatic reason.

Think about the introverts!

Instead of passing the peace, a lot of churches, like mine, do have a moment in the service where we're asked to stand and greet the people around us. This "greeting time" is often assumed to be the equivalent of passing the peace. But as I'll argue in the next two posts, this "greeting time" is a very poor substitute for passing the peace. In fact, as I'll argue, rather than forming us into a Christ-centered community this "greeting time" is actually malforming us.

But before we get those heavier arguments, for today I just want to point out how inhospitable the "greeting time" is for introverts. Seriously, I know many introverts in my church who intentionally come to church late so that they can miss the greeting time. That's how difficult and hard the greeting time is for many introverts. To say nothing about the people who are emotionally or spiritually struggling on any given Sunday. The greeting time privileges extraversion and positivity.

Passing the peace, by giving us a script, words to share with each other, is so much more hospitable to introverts. This is a fact. I know introverts who come to church late to skip the greeting time who absolutely love passing the peace.

Passing the peace is also more hospitable to those who are struggling on Sunday morning. When you are passing the peace you don't have to smile and pretend life is awesome. Which, let's admit it, the greeting time forces you do do. You are not, in the sixty seconds you're given for greeting time, going to spill your troubles to the strangers sitting next to you. So you are forced by the greeting time liturgy to smile, nod and show a happy face. The greeting time is a liturgical nightmare because it is a liturgy of pretending.

Passing the peace avoids this falseness because it focuses us on Christ.

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