I thought you might like an applause update. My blogpost last week on “applause in church” generated 125 views in the first hour. That’s strong interest.
Yesterday morning in worship, which was mostly given over to Christmas music with our Cathedral Choir and the Symphony of the Americas, I made an announcement at the beginning, asking worshippers to hold their applause until after Handel’s “Hallelujah Chorus” at the very end. I even said that this was the request of the choir and orchestra, which it was.
You might think that in my position I carry a great deal of authority with my congregation. Well, apparently I don’t.
To be fair, the congregation at the first service, which tends to be a bit smaller, did not clap their hands until the very end, although I could almost feel the desire to do so long before then. One of the choral pieces was so good, so moving, in fact, that it just didn’t seem right to sit in silence. But we did.
And I thought, “Okay, that’s some progress.”
By the later service, however, when we had a nearly-full church, there was only a minimal attempt to hold off on the applause. By the end of the first choir anthem, the congregation was very nearly on its feet with clapping. I half expected shouts of “bravo!”
Since the service was structured, more or less, as a service of lessons and carols, I went to the lectern after the first outbreak of applause to read scripture, and the congregation smiled back at me as if to say, “Sorry, but we couldn’t help it.”
And that’s okay. I get it. But I intend to carry on my little crusade to encourage mindfulness in worship. I would count it a big victory if the people in my church enjoyed quiet reverence in the presence of the holy every bit as much as loud and noisy responses to most everything that happens on Sunday morning.
Quiet can be good too.