Why Do We Have a Passing of the Peace in Worship?

     For many congregations the practice of Passing the Peace of Christ is a familiar element. Many congregations, however, do not understand the theological significance of the element in worship, which follows the Confession of Sin and the Assurance of Pardon, and use the time as an opportunity to greet their friends, perhaps welcome visitors, and otherwise engage in fellowship. All of these things are important in the life of the community of faith, but properly are not an element of worship and should be reserved for hospitality and fellowship prior to and following the worship service.
     In giving signs of peace to each other, usually with the words, “The Peace of Christ be with you,” and the response, “And also with you,” while focusing our complete attention on the person to whom the peace is extended, we express the reconciliation, unity, and love that are in Christ. The peace is a sign of the blessing and presence of God, a sharing of the peace that comes only from God. It is a glad demonstration that as God’s people we are seeking to abide in the peace of God. It expresses an openness to the power of God’s love to heal our brokenness and make us agents of that love in the world.

     As the Passing of the Peace of Christ is a symbolic gesture it is not the intention for worshipers to extend this peace to every person in the congregation, but only to those people in their immediate vicinity in the pews as a gesture of peace and reconciliation to their neighbor. When the music begins signifying the conclusion of this element of worship it is appropriate for worshipers to be seated so the worship service may proceed in an orderly and timely fashion.