A good friend whose integrity and conscience I hold in high esteem has been distinctly "off" God lately and blogged recently on the impossibility of offering the Peace honestly while struggling with a particular relationship at work..For her this had become such a huge issue that it dominated the entire service in a thoroughly unhelpful way. It struck me as distinctly ironic that she, while claiming no Christian allegiance at present, is so much more scrupulous about the need to be "in love and charity with her neighbour" than too many who approach Communion with no qualms (though I guess if we waited to be ready to receive...yes, well, let's not go there....)
On her blog, this sparked the sort of "Peace or not discussion" which seems inevitable in most churches from time to time...so I thought, why not? Let's give it another airing.
So here are a few reasons why I am largely in favour of the Peace...
1) because it CAN and SHOULD be an opportunity to heal broken relationships before receiving Communion...and is good theology, obedient to Jesus's command (Matt 5 22-25) (...make the most of that, it's not often you'll catch me actually quoting Scripture ;-) )
2)because it can break down barriers between groups and individuals in the church family...when we first moved to our previous house, we knew nobody in the village, but the children adopted 2 quite excellent honorary grandparents by dint of moving in on them during the Peace and somehow never quite leaving.
3)because (to repeat my comments on that blog) it can provide a bit of human contact for otherwise lonely and untouched souls
All of this only holds good if you are actually attempting to match deeds with thoughts...to go through the motions while harbouring murderous intentions is clearly never a good idea. I do recognise as well how the Peace can also work against community, isolating those who are not "in the know" still further...it is so awful when you visit a church and find yourself politely shaking the hands nearest to you while all around others are flinging their arms around their dearest friends whom they've clearly not seen since...ooh...at least last Sunday!
By nature a touchy feely type, I'm mindful too of those for whom such contact is deeply uncomfortable..the sheer embarassment factor can be huge, I'm certain.
But, despite all this, to remove the rite from the liturgy would seem to me to imply that it is possible for the Body of Christ to operate as though were simply a group of disparate individuals, as if our worship as community did not in fact matter. I think we need the discomfort, the long hard looks at our relationships, even perhaps the occasional embarassment along the way. Sorry Mrs Beamish, but your day is not yet!