Sunday, February 25, 2007

Hold your applause

Is anyone else still annoyed by applause in church, or is it just me?

98% of the congregation applauds whenever the children's choirs "perform" for the "audience". Doting Moms and Dads may feel that little Murgatroyd will be crushed if his effort is not applauded. I say it's time to teach little Murgatroyd the difference between a worship service and a school assembly, not to mention teaching him who the Audience really is.

Please take a look at this. I can't say it any better than that.

Sincerely yours,
Old Cranky-pants Church Lady

14 comments:

Presbyterian Gal said...

OK, Cranky-pants. I hear your one hand clapping, now don't deny it. Any way, being a former worship drama provider whose volunteers received no money, no thanks and only a hearty "AMEN"! to their hours of work in the form of applause, I really must take exception. When we received applause after our drama offerings, it was to me, like I said, an "AMEN" to God, as in the congregation's way of participating in our worship offering. It also inspired us to do more and better later. It was, as my 'star' Lynette said "a God thing".

And what is the difference between a verbal "Amen", or a "um hmmm", or even a hand raising in the air? Just curious, because I know this is an issue with lots of folks.

cheesehead said...

I hear you, Zorra. The first time I heard applause at St Stoic, I was very, very startled.

I did a little "teaching" at the next Session meeting about performance vs worship. The overall attitude of the eldes is "If we don't clap for them, (the children) how will they know that we liked it?" (There is so much wrong with that question I hardly know where to start.)

I suggested that music in worship is not entertainment for us to enjoy, it is sung (or played) prayer to God on our behalf. The looks I got. You'd have thought I'd peed on the communion table.

This is a struggle for lots of churches, I suspect. (Or at least lots of ministers)

Songbird said...

On the other hand (and this is not to say that I disagree with you, really), there are lots of forms of worship where vocal and hand exclamations are rightly part of the overall worshipful experience. I wish we could get there from Yankee Congregational Land, though I doubt it will ever happen. :-(

Alex said...

I just saw your comment on my post about the same topic (spooky!) I get what you are saying and agree that we should not train our children to expect applause. But what do you say to my elder who expects the pastor (ME!) to reprimand the congregation for clapping? Sigh.

Quotidian Grace said...

I think your problem with this is that there is ALWAYS applause for the children's choirs, but any applause for the adult choir or other adult group (handbells? instrumentalists?) seems to be much more spontaneous and "of the Spirit".

Therefore the children's choir anthems are seen as performances, rather than worship, because the applause is expected every time rather than erupting spontaneously.

I have no idea how to fix this once it's become entrenched in the congregational culture. I sympathize with Alex--scolding your congregation for clapping really doesn't seem to be the answer.

ljg1553 said...

The pastor at our church thanks the children for their participation in leading worship both as the choir comes forward and after they have finished singing. This helps the kids learn that singing in the choir is part of worship, not a performance, and signals the adults that they're not at the school pageant...

Presbyterian Gal said...

OK, I know this is pesky of me. While I'm sympathetic to a reaction of distaste for an unexpected sound in an unexpected place, please help me understand your basic protest. When I read "make a joyful noise unto the Lord", to me this includes any kind of noise that is for the Lord. When I slap my two hands together in church, it is for the Lord. It's a way of saying thank you for something in worship that has moved me. In the praise service, clapping during the singing, it's my way of worshipping God with my body. Maybe I've a Baptist or Foursquare streak in my reformed bones, I dunno. But to me, worshipping is best when it's joyful and noisy and reverently boisterous, as well as quiet, reflective and worshipfully silent.

Help me understand your objections.

zorra said...

PG, my problem is that in the situation I'm describing, the clapping doesn't seem to be worshipful, or directed toward God; it is the "audience's" response to the children. This was underscored yesterday when the lay assistant introduced the children with the innocent comment, "And now the (children's) choir will perform for us."

Part of the problem in our church is that often the choir from our church school sings, and many of their families are not churchgoers at all, so I don't expect them to see their kids' singing as much more than a school pageant. Usually they get up and troop out of the service en masse as soon as the children are finished. They just don't know any different, but since the last such episode (when they all stood in the narthex yakking loudly as the service was still in progress)the school has begun a gentle campaign to cordially invite them to remain through the rest of the service.

I DO expect church members to know the difference between worship of God and a performance at which they expect to be entertained. But of course, they have to be taught, too.

I don't like it when people clap for the chancel choir, either. I feel very uncomfortable. I am happy with an Amen because to me that is saying "yes" to the worshipful message of the song. And occasionally you will hear a few Amens in my church. But a lot of Presbyterians find that really scary!!

Quotidian Grace said...

Did the "gentle campaign" work this time or was there a general exodus after the children sang?

zorra said...

This was just church kids...so it remains to be seen.

Kievas said...

At our church, the kids are only "on stage" a couple of times a year, so this isn't a problem. There's clapping (a la "joyful noise") during worship, which tends to be pretty spontaneous, and sometimes it spills over into applause after a song has ended. Still, it never feels unnatural. Yes, a part of it is in appreciation for the band, but I think it's also just an expression of joy, which is part of worship.

Presbyterian Gal said...

Thanks. I get it. It's the discerned difference between applause and worship. Here's an idea, and I'm really not being sarcastic because people who are "unchurched" really don't know: how about a short disclaimer displayed before the service or printed on the bulletin when you have these programs. And certainly the lay assistant needs a gentle heads up.

Singing Owl said...

In our Pentecostal tradition clapping hands is quite common. So in our case I feel pretty much like kievas in that it is mostly an expression of joy. Or occasionally someone will point upward if being applauded, a gentle reminder that it is about God and gifts. However, there are times it can be jarring. The moment is quiet and contemplative and the musical offering is too, followed by applause? NO. In that case the appropriate worship response is not clapping, so it really becomes about performance. In our church we seem to have somewhat figured this out. Not always though. :-)

zorra said...

SO, I feel the urge to point upward whenever people applaud for the chancel choir, but I've never actually done it...