✦Clapper? Amen-er? Who cares?✦
Over the course of my life, I have been in a handful of congregations and served as a minister in a few of them. Something that struck me about each church was their different opinions on whether clapping or saying “amen” was the appropriate response of affirmation to a preached word or a song. A lot of charismatic and Black churches love to clap to affirm what they’re experiencing. A lot of White (mostly mainline and so called “progressive”) congregations believe that clapping is an affirmation of an individual’s performance and not an act of worship.
Well, let’s clear a few things up.
✦ The reality of life is that everything is performance.
From the moment you wake up, stretching your arms and yawning, you are performing. There is no intentionality that can change that fact. Life is a performance.
✦ “Well I know my congregation. They are clapping because they think it is a performance.” Can you read someone’s mind? No.
If you can’t read the minds of the folks in the pews, how do you know that they are worshipping God when they say “Amen?” You don’t! Exactly. Don’t assume someone’s intentions when they clap, either! Let the people clap! Hell, let ’em hop up and sing/dance if it feels right to them.
✦ To affirm the goodness of humans is to affirm the goodness of God.
Let’s say the congregants ARE clapping because they want to show appreciation to a performer and not necessarily to God. Is that a bad thing? Personally, I think that giving affirmation to our siblings in Christ IS worship. Celebrating with our community and their accomplishments through a round of applause IS worship.
✦ Legalism in worship is NOT the answer.
We need to be freeing up worship and creating spaces for people to express themselves in ways that THEY feel are worshipful. Ministers don’t get to decide what is and isn’t worshipful.