been raised if it has become a distraction (some say yes, some say no), and what is the purpose (originally and for us now). So first, as a bit from the ELCA about the original intent of sharing of peace as part of the liturgy, and then some thoughts about how it has evolved.
In an article regarding the Peace, the ELCA first reminds us that the original placement of this part of the Liturgy (where it is placed in the ELW) is after the Prayers of Intercession and before we gather for the Meal. This placement is important to the original intent. The article states:
“Sharing God’s peace is not simply offering a friendly hello to those sitting around you. Sharing God’s peace is not a time for catching up on news with your neighbor or for reminding someone about an upcoming meeting. Sharing God’s peace does not require each worshiper to offer a sign of God’s peace to every other worshiper present. The “exchange of peace” (also commonly called “sharing the peace” or “passing the peace”) is an act of reconciliation that serves as a transition point between the Word and Meal portions of the liturgy.
As stated in The Sunday Assembly:
"The exchange of peace is a ministry, an announcement of grace we make to each other, a summary of the gift given to us in the liturgy of the Word. This ministry we do to each other is far greater than a sociable handshake or a ritual of friendship or a moment of informality. Because of the presence of Jesus Christ, we give to each other what we are saying: Christ’s own peace. Then, having been gathered by the Spirit around the Risen One present in the word, we turn to celebrate his meal (p. 173). Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount, as recorded in Matthew’s Gospel, lays a foundation for the practice of sharing God’s peace. ‘So when you are offering your gift at the altar, if you remember that your brother or sister has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go; first be reconciled to you brother or sister, and then come and offer your gift’. (Matthew 5:23-24)."
The article continues to teach that the practice of sharing the peace in liturgy dates back to Christian writing dating as far back as some portions of the New Testament.
Placement of the Sharing of Peace has changed over the centuries. Some congregations moved it to just after the Lord’s Prayer linking the action even more profoundly to the Eucharist. And some, like Faith, have combined this Liturgical element to welcoming, moving it to the beginning of worship. Worshippers also state that placement at the start of the service make it seem less like a disruption in the flow of the service. This element of disruption is especially profound is congregations like Faith where the greeting becomes lengthy.
So, are we doing it wrong? Of course not. Liturgy is at its heart the work of the gathered Body of Christ. It has form and purpose but it also takes on the needs and the traditions of those who are gathered. However, looking at the liturgical purpose may be good way of thinking about this part of our worship. What part of the conversation might be better suited to before worship, or during coffee hour? What are you saying to your neighbor when you say, “the peace of the Lord”? What does it mean to you when you hear it? How are you better prepared to hear God’s word after giving a receiving the peace of the Lord?
A few things to ponder. Please share your thoughts! And, what else is on your mind? Send me the questions or concerns you would like to see me write about.