Sunday, August 29, 2010


O clap your hands, all ye people; sing unto God with the voice of triumph. (Psalm 47:1)

Despite this verse, applause is an oddity in churches. Many churches explicitly prohibit applause, since it is not a New Testament teaching, distracts from God-centered worship, and foments pride in worship leaders. Other churches encourage hand-clapping because it elevates the joy of worship, adheres to Psalms, and allows open congregational expression. There isn't an easy answer to this little issue, unless it's "follow the leader."

In secular entertainment, applause is a simple indicator of the opinion of the audience; the louder and longer the noise, the stronger the sign of approval. Some performers inspire applause simply entering a stage; others have paid folks to applaud long and loud, inflating their public persona. Sacred music, though, is not to entertain or sensationalize the congregation: singing is to be an act of worship that encourages worship in the congregation., a choir resource group, did a survey about clapping showing that churches and denominations are divided and have become divided, by this issue. The article "Is applause appropriate in worship?" offers a fair answer:
"Liturgically, there are occasional moments when applause is an appropriate acclamation of the action just completed....

There are moments, particularly those filled with highly charged emotion, when spontaneous applause erupts from an assembly because there is just no other possible response....

After a particularly fine offering of music, worshipers may give thanks to God in silent prayer and personally thank the musician(s). Congregational leaders can plan congregational events that allow for such thanks to be given. "
Thus, at St. Timothy's Lutheran Church, we do applaud sometimes. If you are moved or asked to applaud, who would stop you? I'll confess to some pride that enjoys knowing that you were moved. Still, I give my thanks and appreciation to the individuals after worship. I thank God for musicians and the fellowship at St. Timothy's. When there is no applause after our musical offering, though, we musicians are content that we worshiped God, and that you did, too, in silence.

"But the LORD is in His holy temple: let all the earth keep silence before Him." (Habakkuk 2:20)

All the best to you.
Gary Shannon