Passing the Peace

"The peace of Christ be with you.” Response: "And also with you."

We do not normally call it that, but it is what we are doing when Roger asks us to greet each other early in our church service on Sundays. I also use the several minutes before the service begins to roam the aisles and do the same thing.

A lot of it is simply chit chat, of course. "Glad to see you this morning," "Hey, thanks for coming." Special attention is given to the children, as I ask them what they are reading now and how they are enjoying school. I got a lot of compliments on the Christmas tie I was wearing this week.

Sometimes I jokingly say that these conversations constitute my "working the room," but real ministry is in fact going on. For some people it is the only touch they receive from another human being all week--and the only cheerful greeting. Plus, I think that folks listen more intently to my sermon when I have looked them in the eye and called them by their name in that brief exchange of words. They see that I am a real person--not just an aloof figure on the platform or an image on the big screen. It is really one of my favorite times of the entire week.

Here's just a sample of some of these exchanges from last Sunday---

A visitor from Florida, the father of one of our members, told me that he regularly watches our services online-- and loves it! "When I can't make it to my church, I watch you."

Another visitor, the mother of one of our members, told me about an intense conversation that she recently had with someone of another faith. The woman had told her that she was afraid of dying. Our guest gave her a positive witness, but said: "I wish she could have been here today.

A student asked if I would pray for her. She has a heavy schedule of finals this week and she is also sick with a bad cold. We took a seat right then and there and prayed together. "LORD, she knows the material and is ready. Give her recall, and confidence as she takes her tests.”

I greeted one first time guest who told me: "I have been welcomed more warmly in the first five minutes I've been here today than in an entire year at the previous church I was attending.

"What will happen at the ordination service next month?” asked a young man who will be joining the Diaconate.

Someone else asked about a quote that I had recently used in the service. "It really spoke to me," he said. I don't know who said it originally, but I did tell him who I heard pass it on. It was another pastor--a friend of mine.

"That microphone (attached to my cheek) isn't on right now, is it?” asked one woman, as she leaned in to tell me something confidentially.
I sure hope not," I told her--because I had just been in the restroom.

Several of our members introduced me to the guests that they had brought to the service.
And a lovely family from Indiana told me that they were leaving for home right after the service. "We stayed an extra day just so we could come to this church. We always enjoy it so much!"

I used to spend the final moments before the church service sequestered in my office, in prayer, asking God's blessing--and going over my notes for the sermon. Then it dawned on me that I could do that all of the preceding week. And I do. Best to use this precious time reaching out to people that I will only see for this one hour or so all week.

After church and over lunch Audrey and I can pretty much account for everybody who was present that morning--what we learned, how we may have been an encouragement to various ones we touched. And the great blessing we received in return from each one we greeted.
You ought to try it yourself. A lot of exciting things and real life stories are swirling all around you and you may not even realize it.
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