Stephen Barbour +
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The COVID-19 pandemic has, undoubtedly, taken a considerable toll on the communal
nature of our lives, and the church has not been immune to this. As we have reflected over
the last sixteen months, one noticeable impact was that we moved from one service to two
services. As such, most people chose one of the two services and faithfully attended it.
Unfortunately, this means that a large portion of our congregation may not have seen one
another over these many months!

As our team has considered what it looks like to regather, an essential priority for us is
community. Therefore, we want to set aside time each week to intentionally (though
briefly) connect on Sunday mornings. Accordingly, we will institute a practice historically
called “The Passing of the Peace” as a new opportunity for us to reconnect after COVID.
The Passing of the Peace provides us with three beautiful opportunities:

First, it allows us before Holy Communion to consider our heart and our unity. Jesus, at the
sermon on the mount, challenged us, saying, “So if you are offering your gift at the altar, and
there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the
altar and go. First, be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift.” (Mt.
5:23-24). The Passing of the Peace began as an opportunity for the church to ensure they
were reconciled and united. Before going to the Holy Eucharist, an altar of unity, we make
every effort to be reconciled and unified with one another – to make peace.

Secondly, we get to speak the blessing of peace to one another. Jesus, at the Last Supper,
offered his peace to his disciples saying, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you”
(John 14:27), and shortly after that saying, “This is my commandment, that you love one
another as I have loved you.” (John 15:12). After the resurrection, Jesus greeted his disciples
with “Peace to you!” (Luke 24:36) and St. Paul continued this tradition by beginning each of
his letters by saying, “Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.”
Thirdly, this is a new opportunity for us to leave our seats and to express our love, our
unity, and, when needed, our repentance and forgiveness. Beyond a mere greeting, the
Passing of the Peace confers the blessing and peace of God as a spiritual act of unification.
The Passing of the Peace will happen after our prayers and before the Gospel reading.
During the Passing of the Peace, we will walk around and greet one another saying, “The
Peace of Christ” or “The Peace of the Lord be with you,” and you can respond to someone by
saying, “And also with you.”

Time will not allow for this portion of our service to meet every communal need, nor will
we have time to catch up on the last year of our lives, but it does provide a way for us to see
one another, meeting someone you don’t know and together share in the love and peace of
Christ. To see Christ’s love in the faces of our brothers and sisters and to freely give and
receive the reconciling work of Christ on the cross.