As the son of a Baptist minister and a Christian myself, I grew up in church. And one thing people never did was applaud a solo or a choir anthem. During my (abundant number of) adult years, I’ve belonged to a number of churches that are just the opposite.
I can’t stand that. I don’t think of it as worshipful.
Oh, sure. I understand that people think they’re expressing praise to God when they clap that way, but they have yet to convince me of that.
Maybe the problem is we’re defining worship differently. One of the simplest definitions is “to show devotion to a deity.” Are those people really showing devotion to God by praising the singer(s) of a song? Isn’t that the same as thinking of it as a performance?
I can almost tolerate the clapping when the song is so rhythmic that people have been dying to clap along—or perhaps they have been. But when our church accompanist plays a quiet piece while the offering is being collected, I close my eyes in prayer. What a rude conclusion to my prayer time when the congregants clap when the accompanist finishes.
I don’t expect to change anyone’s mind—nor do I feel it’s my right to try—so I do my best to tolerate the applause. I love my church otherwise, and it’s my responsibility to accept the few things I’m less fond of.
That’s the pet peeve part of this post. Now for the Catch-22 part.
We have two of the most precious children’s choirs. The smaller kids form the Little Lambs and the older ones are in the Masterpiece Kids. (The teens belong to Set Apart.) Those two choirs typically sing one Sunday morning a month and again at the evening service. Everyone loves them, and often friends and family of the kids—people who don’t normally attend—will come to hear them.
When they finish singing, the applause is immediate, loud, and long.
Hmm. How do I feel about that? I can certainly understand the desirability of encouraging the kids by showing them how much we appreciate their accomplishments. So I try to ignore the applause.
Sometimes I clap, too. But do I do it to encourage the kids or to keep from looking like the only person in the sanctuary who’s not clapping? How worshipful is feeling that way?
Now to tie parts one and two of this post together. My theory is that the congregation never gets over wanting to encourage the kids as they join progressively older choirs and do progressively more challenging music. Hence, we end up with that applause that ends every piece of music.
I wouldn’t dare to even want people to quit encouraging the little kids, but isn’t there some point at which that can be done in what I would consider a more appropriate—or at least a more worshipful— way?
Probably. But I don’t expect to live long enough to see it happen. Not if I live to my hundredth birthday.
So I’ll just have to keep biting my tongue—or, more appropriately, say, “Lord, You know their hearts and You know mine. You know I have no right to feel critical. Please forgive me. But can’t you at least keep them from applauding the offertory?”
Please leave a comment if something in this post has spoken to you. I’ll be back again on Sunday. If you’d like to receive my posts by email, just go to “Follow Blog via Email” at the upper right.
By the way, “On Aging Gracelessly” isn’t my only blog. I use “As I Come Singing”—check it out here—to post lyrics of the Christian songs I’ve written over the last fifty years. Free lead sheets (tune, words, and chords) are available for many of them. Check here to see the list.