“We need to make decisions based on who is not yet here, rather than who has been here the longest.” Mark Bailey
Whilst we need to be careful with such statements there is a lot of wisdom here similar to the statement at that is credited to Archbishop William Temple “The church is the only organisation that exists for the benefit of it’s non-members.”
Those who were at the sessions we held in May, June and July will remember Charlie Peer talking about our services and questioning whether they were understandable to those who haven’t been brought up in church life. In particular he challenged us to think about the Peace. Whilst many of us enjoy this part of our service it is largely unintelligible and off putting to many, if not most, first time visitors.
When I was a curate I can still remember an occasion where a young couple were visiting for the first time and we came to the Peace which was in the middle of the service. As they observed everyone getting up, greeting and talking to each other, they concluded the service had finished and so they headed for the door to leave! I’ve also had a comment recently from a member of our own congregation that they enjoy sharing the Peace, but when they first joined us found it intimidating and difficult.
As a result of Charlie Peer’s encouragement and challenge, for the next two services, I asked people to share the Peace with those alongside them rather than moving. This didn’t happen as folk continued to mix from front to back of the church building. The next step was not to include the Peace in our services.
The first Sunday we did this was in August. Following the service someone mentioned the disappearance of the Peace to Phil. They commented however that we were in fact still sharing the Peace before and after the service. I think that was a very insightful comment.
The Peace was introduced into our services at a time when worship services were far more formal. People used to arrive at services and rarely spoke to anyone before the service started. Likewise, after the service, coffee wasn’t served and people greeted the vicar and maybe one or two others as they left. It was also introduced at a time when the separate services on Mattins and Communion were ‘glued’ together into a new service and the Peace was the glue between the two older elements.Services today are very different. In fact, as I write this, it was a challenge at our service this morning to start with the amount of chatter and conversation going on! This is great and reflects one of the main purposes the Peace was introduced. We also no longer need the glue between two services, in fact we moved the Peace to the start of our services a long time ago as it makes little theological or liturgical since in the middle.
So we are still sharing the Peace, but not formally as part of our Liturgy. We share it in our welcome, our conversation and our care for each other.