The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America



Spontaneous applause during worship just might delight

Is it all right to clap in worship? There’s no simple answer to that question. But that hasn’t stopped me from writing about something that gets people talking—remember the “Holy smoke” column (January 2008)?

I think it depends on the assembly—who the people are and why they’re clapping. I fondly remember two occasions on which the assembly applauded at the end of a sermon I preached. (I’m not sure exactly why. Perhaps the Spirit was actively moving through my words. Perhaps they were thrilled to hear the word “Amen.”) And in the congregation I currently serve, clapping has exploded at the end of a particularly splendid musical rendering, although we don’t encourage such applause.

While the communion rite in Evangelical Lutheran Worship contains no rubrics about clapping, there is precedent for such applause. The rites for ordination, installation of a pastor, and installation of a bishop in our Occasional Services book call for it. (Oddly, and perhaps unfortunately, such a rubric doesn’t occur in the commissioning or recognition rites for lay ministers.)

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February issue


Embracing diversity