The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America


Hugger, shaker ... peacemaker?

Magazine's readers share their views on passing the peace


That little thing called “sharing the peace” is apparently anything but little—or peaceful­—for some people. At least that’s what many who responded to a reader survey in The Lutheran believe. Sure, there are people who can’t get enough Sunday morning handshakes or hugs. But others wouldn’t miss sharing the peace one whit if it were to disappear from the liturgy.

Passing the peace

Readers cited anything from their introverted personalities to germs as reasons. Some said it interrupts the flow of worship or takes too much time. Several called it a “circus” or “free-for-all.”

Norm Barnhart, Zion Lutheran Church, Tipp City, Ohio, didn’t mince any words: “It’s disruptive, meaningless and a false way to get people to acknowledge one another. Put me down as definitely against it.”

Barnhart would be happy if Lester Polenz of Mansfield, Ohio, were leading his worship. Retired after 55 years of service, the pastor signed his letter: “Still holding two [nursing home] Sunday services with no ‘peace.’ ” His wife, Nancy, called the exchange of peace disruptive and meaningless, adding, “Hugging would be most distasteful.”

Considering the number of anonymous responses, Polenz and Barnhart were among the braver of some 45 readers from 18 states. Several readers didn’t reply to queries asking them to identify themselves; a few wrote lengthy opinions but insisted their comments were “not for publication.”

Clearly this is more than just a handshake vs. hug issue.

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February issue


Embracing diversity