What Is “Passing Of The Peace” During The Service?
When we pass the peace during our worship service, what is really going on? What is the purpose? Are we harboring no ill-feelings towards our brothers & sisters? Or is this more spiritual?
The passing of the Peace has its origins already in the New Testament. In the letters of St. Paul there are several references to greeting one another with “a holy kiss” (Rom 16:16; 1 Cor 16:20; 2 Cor 13:12; 1 Thess 5:26). In the worship of the early church this took on a specific function in the liturgy. Usually it occurred after the sermon or just before the distribution of communion. Its function was to visibly demonstrate that all who were present were one in the faith and that no sin stood in the way of their unity.
Of course, over time the actual kiss of peace has given way to either a handshake or an embrace. The purpose, however, is the same: a visible demonstration that we are members of the one body of Christ . . . we therefore are also reconciled with one another.
The passing of the Peace began reappearing in congregations in the 60s and 70s. It is important before beginning this practice to explain it thoroughly. What it is not is a time to say “howdy” to everyone, or to talk about what you’ll be doing after church.
A congregation probably needs occasional reminders that the purpose of passing the peace is to demonstrate that we are members of Christ’s body. At first, it can be uncomfortable for some, and understandably so. But it can have some tremendous benefits.
Consider this: what if you don’t want to share the peace with the person sitting in front of you because you are mad at that person for something he did to you or said about you? The fact that you don’t even want to shake hands with that person would suggest that indeed there is a need for reconciliation to take place — a gift that God freely offers.
The passing of the peace has some obvious benefits and each person then encouraged to live in that peace of God as they share it with each other.