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Applause in church



(I'm posting this on behalf of Judy Greenhill. DBT)

I was overwhelmed by the amount of responses I got to my
question about applauding for choirs in church, and
especially for children's choirs. I was impressed and very
grateful for the amount of time and thought that went into
these replies, even when, and sometimes especially because,
they differed from my own opinion. Most of all I realized
what a caring group this is!

After doing a quick tally, I realized that the responses were
pretty evenly divided as to for and against applause in
church, with some exceptions being made for choirs of
children. It all boils down to a matter of style - for the
minister and the congregation. Some wonderful compromises
were also suggested for those of you who deal with this
issue.

Now, unless you care to delete this, go refill that coffee
mug, and settle down for a long reading. The postings are in
the order in which they were received, not any order of
importance. Thanks for your support!

Judy Greenhill

Applause for Choirs


Original question:

Our minister has made a public request for the congregation
not to applaud for the choirs of our Methodist church on the
basis that the choirs are not there to entertain. Some of us
feel that clapping is a normal way to show appreciation
(particularly for children), and would be just as appropriate
as a heartfelt "Amen," which is deemed to be ok by this
minister. I would appreciate hearing your thoughts, and/or
the policies of your churches, if such things exist.
__________________________________________

Replies:


I have very strong feelings about allowing people to respond
as they feel. Applause is a normal affirmative response in
this country. What's wrong with affirming the offerings of
people in our congregations? (musical or otherwise) We might
applaud for someone's 50th anniversary. We might applaud for
an inspiring and challenging sermon. We might applaud because
we raised enough money to pay off the mortgage. We could also
remain silent but that hardly seems like an overt
response.....and who is to say that silent reverence is the
best response. I personally know that silence on the outside
is sometimes an indication that not much is going on the
inside. Who is to say what action is "spiritual"?? Any action
can become spiritually affirming as well as humanly affirming
if the intent of the sprit is towards the Spirit. I've told
some people who didn't seem to feel comfortable that if they
were concerned about applause going towards human
accomplishment....then how about aiming the applause and the
intent "upward" or "inward" ...or wherever the spirit of God
is for them. And who is to say that the Spirit of God is not
in the individuals who are doing the performing??!! Sorry, to
go on and on.....I've taught worship and church music at a
local Christian college....we have wrestled back and forth on
this one. I'm happy with what we practice in our
church....and that is to encourage people to respond to God
in the way in which they are most comfortable,. Hope that
this helps.

Jerry Rubino Spirit of Hope UMC, Minneapolis, MN Professor of
Music, Carleton College Associate Conductor, The Dale Warland
Singers
__________________________________________

Tough call. I grew up in a Baptist church where applause was
not frowned upon, but was not encouraged either. I've
personally sung in Baptist, Episcopal, Lutheran, Catholic,
Christ Scientist, and others and the policy seems to be very
different depending on the leadership.

My personal feeling is that the people performing should be
doing so for the glory of God, and the edification of the
congregation. However, I don't believe that there is anything
wrong with expressing appreciation for the hard work and
effort put forth. Especially with the children. They need
encouragement if they're going to continue to participate and
grow. And, a hearty "AMEN" is not encouraging to a child.

I'd probably tell the pastor to lighten up! Worship is
supposed to be fun sometimes too!!

Dave
__________________________________________

The issue of applause in the sanctuary is a perennial problem
for many of us who sing in church. At my home church of First
United Methodist Church in Lancaster, PA we typically go
through cycles in which congregational pressure to express
appreciation for the contribution of the musical groups
builds to the point where applause occurs (Applause Occurs!
Make a nice bumper stick don't you think?). Then major
expressions of disapproval are voiced (read "fits are
thrown") by the "usual suspects" at the next Administrative
Board meeting. In our church a similar argument is used to
keep the choir from "performing" or singing on the chancel
stairs. The chancel is recessed under an arch and, of course,
sound within the arch is half what it is on the steps. To
some extent this diminishes the subtlety and power the group
can impart to any given piece, not to mention the power that
facial expressions can add to any text. Singing on the stairs
though has been interpreted by some as an attempt to bring
the choir itself to the foreground and, by an implication
which does not hold water, drive God and praise to the rear.

I sing in several choral organizations, one of which is semi-
professional, and I certainly know what it means to "perform"
a piece. What I have never been able to adequately
distinguish, for myself or for others, is what it means to
sing without performing. It seems to me that the term
"performance" is semantically flawed for the discussion that
we all want to have. What those opposed to applause in the
sanctuary seem to object to is the apparent deflection of
approval away from God and towards the "performing group".

It seems to me that the most potent argument against this is
that the difference between genuine praise and self-
aggrandizing performance can only be distinguished in the
heart of the "performer" by himself and God. And this is true
of course regardless of whether or not anyone applauds. We
all realize that unlike Bach we are all capable of choosing
to sing "Soli Meo Gloria" and I believe that most singers
would agree that this is a sin. (Consider I Corinthians 13.4,
"Love vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up.") In a similar
way, if the act of applauding detracts the worshipper's
attention away from the praise of God, then that member
should reflect on whether or not they are appropriately
focusing his attention on the spirituality of worship. (This
might be called the "Soli 'That's my son'-o Gloria")

I have a keen awareness of when I feel the Spirit pushing me
in "performance" to a level of spiritual communication of
which I am not normally capable. I have the same sense of
awareness when another performer" is carrying me to new
spiritual heights. It seems folly to deny ourselves these
opportunities for spiritual growth simply because we
recognize the potential for abuse that comes with such
"performance."

Taking this one step farther, I think that it is the
responsibility of any spiritually sensitive choir director to
make each member of the choir acutely aware of the pitfall
that exists for each of us when we stand in the presence of
God and others and use our talents to praise him. And it is
the responsibility of the pastor to remind us all to
consciously focus our attention on the spiritual nature of
the communication occurring between the listeners, the
performers and God. The risks involved if we forget this are
real, and great, and we should be examining ourselves (and
each other if we have access to small groups that can provide
us with the opportunity for reflective accountability)
regularly to acknowledge and repent of such errors.

However, the idea that congregational members can penetrate
our hearts and recognize self-glorification is, I think,
flawed. What will such self- professed critics use as their
criteria: loudness and duration of applause; passion and
persuasiveness of rendition; what? It seems to me that any
attempt to externally determine what is in another believer's
heart is bound to founder and breed resentment. Any way this
is too long and I am pretty sure you are going to get
inundated with responses on this one, but there are my two
cents!

Soli Deo Gloria
Ted
__________________________________________

I tend to agree with your minister, though I don't know of a
congregation yet that can resist applauding a bunch of kids
who look good and sound good.

The children need to learn the gift of service and the
knowledge of their gifts within that service. Applauding in
our culture does come with a different message. Children's
choir participation in worship should be looked on with the
same eye as that of the adult choirs. It is there to support
and enhance worship, not to attract attention or present an
attitude demanding or receiving applause. I don't think we
expect to applaud the boys choirs singing the liturgy of the
services in great cathedrals and churches. The children's
participation in worship and commitment to the music ministry
can be applauded and praised in other ways - comments from
the pulpit, in the bulletin, in the monthly newsletter, on
bulletin boards, through an achievement program at the end of
the year, etc.

Ruth Becker, Director of Music, St. George's UMC, Fairfax, VA
__________________________________________

My congregation routinely applauds for the children's choir
and when the chancel (adult) choir sings something
particularly moving, they applaud for us. You could remind
your Pastor of the psalm - "O clap your hands together all ye
people..."

David M. Spitko, Organist/Choir Director, Upper Dublin
Lutheran Church, Ambler, PA
__________________________________________

I understand your dilemma. I personally don't like clapping
in a church service, BUT, children don't (usually) understand
the concept of silent appreciation, nor do I think they want
to understand. Clapping, in my opinion, is something to be
saved for a "performance", however, children need a verbal
response do what they just did, they need a response that
satiates the reason they perform. They won't be fulfilled in
hearing nothing, they will think they didn't do a good job.
I'm already assuming that the pastor says something to the
effect of, "How wonderful to be blessed with that precious
sound, Thank you children." But that usually is not enough,
and when you see their smile when a congregation claps, it
almost makes you want to allow it.

I personally am extremely embarrassed when the congregation
claps for us (my choir) when we do something spectacular,
even when its only 3 or 4 people caught up in the excitement.
We are they're to worship, not perform. They are a
"congregation" not an "audience". I was raised Catholic (no
clapping), I had my first church job in a Methodist church
(lots of clapping), and now I'm at Lutheran church with only
a few people clapping, once in a while. Every congregation
(and pastor) is different, but as I see it, with the
exception of JUST children, we shouldn't clap in worship.
There are of course, liturgical reasons supporting each side,
but we don't need to go into that!! We'd be here forever.

Thanks for reading...Brian Dehn
__________________________________________

It may have a lot to do with your church's tradition. I was
taught as a Missouri Synod Lutheran to not clap in church
because they are singing for the Lord and not performing.
However in my ELCA church, they do clap sometimes. My
minister says it depends on the character of the piece. It
may be disturbing to the mood of the piece if people were to
clap after a solemn Lenten hymn. I find it bothersome when
they clap for some choral anthems and then not for others.
Our Senior Choir wonders if they did a poor job if no one
claps. Some feel we should clap after the gospel is read
because that is spiritually uplifting too. When people clap
after my prelude I feel uncomfortable because I feel I
shouldn't acknowledge their appreciation. What do I do? Bow?
We don't say "Amen" in our church (except after prayers).
Personally, I feel uncomfortable with clapping because it
then conveys the message to the choir that they are
performing for an audience. It's probably a question of
tradition and I don't lose a whole lot of sleep over this
one.
__________________________________________

I know that when I was in my church children's choir the
congregation did not clap for us until the very end of the
service. The priest, while giving announcements, would also
recognize the choir and then the congregation would applaud.
I thought this was a great way to show appreciation without
disturbing the service. Hope this was helpful.

Larry E. Fisher, Butler University
__________________________________________

I feel very strongly that music performed as part of a
service should not be applauded. We wouldn't think about
applauding after the sermon or a moving prayer.
__________________________________________

Our church has fought the battle of applause for the past 15
years. Thank goodness we now have a pastor who believes that
if the congregation is moved to applaud for any reason, then
they will. You can't stop them, short of sounding like a
dictator. Your pastor, if he is not the parent of small
children, may not realize that to the children, this is how
appreciation is shown. Once, our pastor tried to say, well,
it's okay to clap for the cherubs (ages 4-6), but nobody
else. Now explain that to the 7-11 year olds, who do
difficult music and get no applause. By the way, we are a
United Methodist congregation. Do you think God really cares
whether or not we clap, just as long as we are doing His
work?

Martha Springstead, Director of Music Community United
Methodist Church VA. Beach, VA. 23464
__________________________________________

It seems to me that your clergy person needs to simply
"lighten up" a bit. Check with members of the congregation
... if THEY do not feel uncomfortable (the parishioners, that
is) then where is the harm? Who ever said that God doesn't
want us to ever smile or laugh or show appreciation in the
church? I'll bet the children's parents would LOVE to give
them a hand.

Our United church folk are of the Methodist tradition, but
even they get moved occasionally get off their hands and no
one minds.

Doug Dunsmore, Associate Professor, Choral and Voice,
Memorial University of Newfoundland, School of Music,
President, Association of Canadian Choral Conductors, St.
John's Newfoundland, Canada
__________________________________________

don't know if i am any help but i am the minister of music in
an episcopal church in maryland and get applause on occasions
when the spirit so moves the congregation for our adult choir
and one the few times the sunday school has sung for the
church service. many of my congregation do not feel
comfortable with the amen and are much more so with the
applause for it singles out no one person. my feeling is that
the spirit moves different people in different ways and i am
not the one to say which is the acceptable response. not much
of a help but god does move in mysterious and different ways.

lyn schramm
__________________________________________
At my Lutheran congregation in Minneapolis, the pastors will
sometimes ASK for the congregation to show their appreciation
for music by applauding. Sometimes it just happens, sometimes
you can sense that people want to applaud but they still
don't, due to that ingrained sense that it is not
appropriate.

I will agree that choirs are not there to entertain, and it
is a problem when members of choirs/ensembles of whatever
nature get into the mind frame that they have performer
status and should be rewarded by applause, or that we should
re-arrange the order of the service so as to accommodate
them. But the heartfelt applause of the congregation, offered
in response to a musical offering during the worship service,
ought not to be banned, in my opinion. This is particularly
true where an anthem is a specific listening event in the
service, and perhaps less appropriate at other times. For
example, you wouldn't really want applause following a choral
call to worship, or during communion. . . But for the kids
choir?????

Yeah, let's do whatever we can to see to it that kids don't
disrupt our worship . . . This sounds like the stuffy pastor
syndrome to me, and there are plenty of stuffy pastors out
there. Lots of them are Lutheran too. So, I would try to get
the pastor to see both sides of it.

Well, you asked. You touched a minor nerve.
__________________________________________

I'm not sure why, but on a personal level, I've always felt
somewhat uncomfortable when receiving applause within a
church service... probably the same part of me that cringes
when I see the youth of today's congregations wearing
baseball caps and tattered jeans to Sunday service. HOWEVER,
on a more intellectual level, I have no problem with it.
Applause happens in our congregation... but not all the
time... usually only when our choir does an anthem that is
particularly moving, the children are involved, or when a
guest musician has been a part of the service.

Our minister understands that in such situations the
congregation has been moved by the music and wishes/needs to
be able to show their appreciation of the event, and that
spontaneous applause is often the easiest or most natural way
of doing so. So the bottom line is that I think your minister
should lighten up a bit... worship should be a joyful thing,
and showing appreciation of good music with some applause is
an expression of that joy... it does not cheapen the service.

(However, as I again play Devil's Advocate.... at the
beginning of our service when congregation members introduce
their guests and visitors, each one also gets a short round
of applause, so I have often thought that this particular
congregation is a bit "clap-happy".)

Wade Noble, Musical Director, Gordon Head United Church,
Victoria, BC Canada
__________________________________________

In 25+ years of singing and directing in churches of several
different denominations, I have never participated in a
church service in which it was considered appropriate to
applaud. Perhaps I have been in hyper- traditional churches,
but I think that's the norm. I agree with you minister that
it is not a performance, but musical prayer and in praise of
God.

Personally, I always make a point of individually thanking
kids for their contributions to the service (kids choirs,
altar boys, epistle readers, etc.). That recognition goes a
long way.

Kate Leff
__________________________________________

I agree with you. There are 2 main problems, I think, that
accompany clapping for children's choirs in worship.
1) What happens when they reach that grey area (I won't say
age) when they're too old for everything they do to be cute?
I have found less spontaneous applause for middle school, jr
high and sr high choirs. What are we saying to children as
they age and the applause gets more feeble?

2) Do we applaud EVERY time, even when the job hasn't been
that spectacular?
To me, that is like teachers who constantly say "Great job"
after a pupil does practically nothing--like draw a straight
line with a ruler. Students KNOW whether they've done a
"great" job or not—and they recognize false praise instantly.

I enjoy applause in church when it IS spontaneous--for people
of any age. But this perfunctory self does nothing more than
convince parents that they are "supporting" their children's
endeavors. I don't think this used to be a problem in decades
past when parents had more time to spend with their kids and
weren't (subconsciously or consciously) feeling some guilt.

David G. Tovey, PhD, Associate Professor, School of Music,
The Ohio State University, Mansfield, OH 44906
__________________________________________

In our Lutheran church, when there has been a special musical
presentation (such as a Christmas choral concert, or a
program involving hired instrumentalists), the minister - at
the time of the benediction - will ask the congregation to
show their appreciation with applause. Otherwise, applause -
if given at the end of each weekly anthem, say - loses its
special meaning; our congregation freely gives the choir
comments after church.

Kevin Kelly, Library Associate II, Music Library, School of
Music, University of Georgia Athens, GA 30602
__________________________________________

If church is for everyone, then the ideals by which we hope
children to lead their lives are got there. The matter of
applause depends largely on the practice of individual
churches (Baptists in the south have a different idea about
this from Lutherans in the Midwest, from Episcopalians in the
Northeast, etc. Our (Episcopal) rector here in Massachusetts
does not like applause for the reasons you mentioned—no choir
is there to entertain. The children's choir functions in the
service (at our church, anyway) exactly like the Senior
choir, and that is an important aspect of their (our
children's) understanding of their work as musicians in the
church, a work that is not different from that of their older
colleagues. It gives them a sense of the importance of what
they are doing which being singled out as entertainers (no
one else is there for that reason--why should they be?) does
not. Ours is not, on the other hand, what you'd call a
"staid" service: there are plenty of opportunities for
children to participate, so there is no need to single
children out for special praise. In fact, having written that
just now, who are we there to praise, anyway? Some traditions
look at applause as a form of praise, but many Methodists do
not. Your pastor is probably one of them, and has good
reasons for his or her hesitancy on the issue. Another
pastor, theologically trained at another seminary, for
example, might have an opposite opinion. That's just the way
it goes. I hope its not an issue that anybody wants to use to
"take a stand" against anybody else--that would be far sadder
than any disruption caused by applause or not applauding for
children (a bad idea IMHO) or anyone else. Best of Luck, and
don't get too fretful about it!

Randall Giles Director of Music, Grace Episcopal Church,
Amherst MA
__________________________________________

Our children choir acted in several churches, in our city,
other Argentinean cities, in St. Patrick Cathedral (N.Y.), in
Spain, France, Italy, In Saint Peter Basilica (Vatican City).
In many of them with ovations. We never heard about this
limitation. The applause is a way to express the feeling of
the public in the concerts. It is normal. I do not understand
your Minister. Of course we are Catholics, but God is the
same and we are sure that it is not a problem for HIM.

Rodolfo Briones Manager Coro de Niños y Jóvenes Ars Nova
Salta - Argentina
__________________________________________

At St. Simon's On-The-Sound Episcopal church in Ft. Walton
Beach, we always applaud for the children when they perform
whether in the middle of the service or not. The congregation
will also applaud the adult choir and handbells on rare
occasions. It is a natural, human response to show
appreciation for beauty in worship.

Allison M. Everitt
__________________________________________

Good question.

In theory, as you well know, applause signifies recognition
of an individual effort and detracts from the worship service
being a communal offering of praise to God. At some point
children need to learn this (as do entire congregations, and
not look for entertainment). However, in my church the
children sing only twice a year and get applause, and I agree
with you that they need it.

I personally feel uncomfortable with applauding a choir
anthem, but when it comes from the heart and is spontaneous,
then I believe it is right. If the children sing often and
applause becomes a matter of course I think it loses its
significance.

Roberta Shimensky, Music Director, Our Saviour's Lutheran
Church, Salt Lake City, UT
__________________________________________

Most of us in "conservative" churches have faced this
argument and sometimes we win and sometimes we loose. Try
opening a concert with some form of Psalm 47, "O clap your
hands, all ye people;..." Read it or sing it. Then you can
argue that clapping hands before God is a form of praise and
appreciation TO GOD.

Jim Kempster Pacific Union College Angwin, CA
__________________________________________

My pastor feels similarly to yours, although I disagree with
this attitude. I think it stems from the fact that pastors
don't get applause for their sermons, so they have a hard
time when the choir gets applause. I know it's a touchy
subject and not worth losing a job over. Last Sunday in the
prayers, one congregation member gave thanks for the voices
of the children in the choir and the kids were very touched
by this gesture. I think kids need all the reinforcement they
can get for volunteering to sing in church choirs and finding
ways the pastor can handle for that to happen is important.
Too bad we're not in a black Baptist church where hallelujas
and clapping and loud amens happen every minute for both
sermons and singing.

Good luck. Rebecca Rottsolk

__________________________________________

We occasionally get applause in church for our singing--
usually when it is particularly good. I have usually felt a
little embarrassed because what we as a choir on ensemble is
doing is not really meant to be a performance and I have
always felt a little uncomfortable with applause in the
church.

If I really analyze it, however, I am simply reacting to what
has been the usual norm in the churches I have attended and
worked for as a choir director. Yes, we don't often get
applause after the music we sing, but when we do, I feel it
is a sincere appreciation for what we are doing—an "Amen" as
you suggest, or a "Hallelujah" as you easily might hear in
some churches. Is this really bad? I don't think so. In spite
of my upbringing and work in many conservative mainline
churches, I can't help but think that there is nothing wrong
with the congregation expressing it's agreement with your
message, it's approval for how you have expressed it just as
they might if THEY were the ones who were praising God in
song. What else can it be but that approval. That is what
applause is, whether you are performers, participants or
simply observers--it is approval.

I really don't see how, just because we were brought up to be
reserved in our public demeanor, we should be so overly
concerned about how we react and respond in our public praise
of God in the very place where we come together for just that
purpose! I left out the fact that, in my experience, it is
often the ministers who lead the applause!

Ron Markle, Choir Director, Clinton Heights Lutheran Church,
Columbus, Ohio
__________________________________________

This is indeed a good topic for discussion. I am a child of
the 60s and 70s and was one of the first to strap on a guitar
in our Methodist congregation. I've sung in black gospel
services in which the use a clapping was more like shouting
amen than applause at a performance. I've sung in Rock Masses
attended by hundreds of young people where worshipers stood
and danced to the music.

My personal journey has led me back to the historical roots
of Methodism and I am now a Episcopalian. I have returned to
school for graduate degrees in choral conducting and vocal
performance (lieder and arias, not rock anthems.) I have
stood on both sides of the discussion at different times in
my journey and always with great certitude of my position.
Given that confession, I will share with you my current
thinking. As a choral director of both adults and children, I
see applause as a blessing and a curse. A blessing for what
it does to encourage my singers, a curse for what it doesn't
tell my singers.

The bigger question might be - why do we have children
singing in a worship service? When it is a way of giving the
kids a chance to participate in leading worship, it would
seem fair to judge the appropriateness of applause as
compared to any other worship leading role. I would find it
rather odd to applaud a heart-felt reading of scripture, a
masterfully led creed by a member of the congregation, a
gracefully received offering by the ushers, a well sung hymn
by the congregation, etc. Yet we treat music in worship
differently. Should it be? Part of the problem is that we set
up the choir as performers in many sanctuaries by seating
them in the front as if on a stage. I find that an obstacle
simply because the visual focus is on a performance. And
quite frankly, much of the repertoire used by church choirs
is more geared for performance than worship leading. I love
to see kids singing in church. I love to have all ages
participate in leading worship. I don't want my 7 year old
daughter to think that worship is a type of variety show,
staged for the congregation (functioning like an audience)
and judged by it's entertainment value. It's pretty hard to
find churches that can avoid those traps.

My thinking at this point is that children need to experience
leading worship in order to understand worship - it's not
about us getting the congregation's encouragement. It's a
matter of the congregation performing for an audience of One.
In that setting, what do we want to teach them about worship?
I want to teach them that they are part of a wonderful fabric
that we weave together each time we gather as a congregation
and offer as a gift to God. That tends to move me in the
direction of not encouraging "entertainerizing" the worship
leaders. Sunday school programs, musicals, etc. need to
happen in the church too so that kids get the chance to be
performers for parents and the faith community and get huge,
unrestrained applause. That's where I'm at now.

Peter Robb, Oregon Festival Choirs
__________________________________________

At my church, which is Episcopalian, we tend not to do things
such as applaud for the adult choir. However, occasionally
the congregation will break into spontaneous applause for my
children's choir when they do an exceptionally nice job. I
don't think we have an official policy, but applause is
definitely not a regular thing.

Erica M. Lohmann, The Ohio State University, School of Music
__________________________________________

Let me preface this by saying that I'm the music director for
an older (both in terms of the facilities as well as the
average age of the congregation) Methodist church in Seattle,
WA. We have a small Chancel Choir (about 18 singers), and a
medium-sized Bell Choir (about 12 ringers on 3 octaves). No
children's choir, though -- not enough children in the
congregation (but that's another issue).

I'm kinda curious *why* the pastor would make such a request.
Did s/he seem to think it was an existing problem? While I
agree in principal that choirs aren't there to "entertain,"
limiting the ways in which the congregation may respond when
the spirit moves them just seems ... well ... just as wrong!
We certainly don't *expect* applause when we sing, but are
thrilled when we get it, because it indicates that we were
able to touch the congregation in a very tangible way. Our
pastor even joins in the applause occasionally.

In other words, the applause may indicate NOT that you're
being perceived as "entertainment," but instead that you've
managed to reach the congregation where it matters! We have
no "policy" (ugh! I HATE that kind of thing anyway) regarding
applause, and I believe it would be unthinkable for the
pastor to attempt to impose such a "policy."

Cheers!, Lana Mountford
_________________________________________

Being of a more "free church" tradition, I am seeing lots and
lots of applause in our churches. It's a part of the new
movement toward "informality" in many churches. I've seen
applause for many years in Baptist churches for children.
Both sides of the issue have good cases. The children do
deserve and expect strong response to their musical offering,
but I believe that your pastor has a valid point about the
strong connection between applause and entertainment. I
happen to agree that the culture sees applause as a response
to entertainment and you can call it what you wish, it's
still not a symbol of our expression to God. You can't remove
the cultural expectation.

Another issue is what is the text being sung? Is it a prayer
and, if so, should we be applauding a prayer to God?

Is a heartfelt "Amen" actually the same as applause? An
"amen" is not actually an expression of gratitude. It's an
expression of agreement or approval. Not the same, at least
to me....

For me the bottom line is "will the prohibiting of applause
be more of a distraction to worship than the applause
itself?" And for you it may be "Is this an issue about which
I REALLY want to question my pastor?" There may more
important issues in your relationship with your minister that
are more worthy of your risking your relationship....

I apologize for asking questions when you wanted answers. You
see, I'm a teacher.....

Blessings, Chares Fuller
__________________________________________

If you are entertaining your audience, as in a concert
situation, applause is quite an acceptable response. If you
are singing in a church service, your audience is God, just
as for the medieval monks who gathered every 3 hours, day and
night, for prayers and chanting. The congregation may be
moved, educated, or inspired by your music, but it is not
intended as entertainment for them.

I'm sure there are churches in which this is not true. The
Episcopal church is not one of them. Personal opinion, of
course.

John Howell
__________________________________________

This is one of those issues that are so thorny. I have been
involved in church music all my life, and now conduct three
choirs at our United Church in Winnipeg. Our philosophy is
quite clear. The Juniors offer their talents within the
worship setting just as the Senior, Youth, and other
ensembles at Westworth. They are valued for their work and
their talent, and are treated with the same respect as the
members of the Senior choir. It would be unthinkable to
applaud the Senior Choir at Westworth. Therefore, the
children would truly be insulted to be acknowledged in this
way. We do have ONE exception to the rule. Each year, the
Juniors present a musical within the regular worship service.
They always receive (and enjoy) thunderous applause for their
efforts!

Ruth Wiwchar
__________________________________________

A church ought to be a place of reverence. Applause disturbs
that reverence. The group should be performing for the
spiritual edification of the congregation, not for the praise
of applause.
__________________________________________

In my humble opinion, applause in church is to be avoided
because it focuses attention on the music: the music is
applauded as a performance, not as an offering to God.
Applause is the expected and accepted response of an audience
to entertainment, NOT of a congregation to an offering of
music.

Attempts to equate applause to an "Amen" are
rationalizations, in my opinion. I have served some churches
with policies, others without. One final thought...in my
experience, when there has been applause following a musical
presentation, it is usually for a children's choir, but not
for any other musical offering. What message are we sending?

Rowland Blackley, D.M.A., Director of Choral Activities,
Ashland University, Ashland, OH 44805
__________________________________________

I would say your minister is just jealous that the
congregation doesn't clap for his sermons! This has gone
round and round in my church and frankly, it is a can of
worms. Some people feel very strongly both ways. Therefore,
there are times when the congregation claps for the adult
choir and times when they are dead silent. But they always
clap for the children! Those poor kids are up there, half of
them are scared to death, and they need to know that what
they are doing is ok and the pastor needs to lead the way.

Does your pastor really think Jesus gives a flop if people
clap in church. For Pete's sake!! Let's stop the people from
whispering, chewing gum and thinking about how much they wish
they had stayed at home and slept in. Frankly, I don't think
God gives a lick about "playing church" each Sunday. There
are much, much bigger issues in this world! That is my
soapbox for the day. ;>

Douglas L. Jones, Director of Worship Life, New Hope Lutheran
Church, Missouri City, TX
(Formerly a Methodist!)
__________________________________________

Clapping in church is always tacky, but they do it in my
church too. Yuk
__________________________________________

Our congregation (within the past 5 years) has started
clapping for our anthems. Some of our congregation members
detest this action. Others feels like you do: clapping is
just as natural as an amen. The problem that we have is
sometimes our congregation claps when you do not want them
to. We sang Thompson's "Alleluia" at Christmas. It was
beautiful...at the end some of our congregation began
clapping...i was mortified. It ruined the entire piece.
So...bottom line...i think it is ok to clap...you need
however to teach your congregation when it is appropriate to
clap.

chris gregory, director of music, fumc, tullahoma tennessee
__________________________________________

Whether or not applause is deemed appropriate after a choir
anthem may well reflect the position your minister or church
takes on the place of music in worship. Is the music an
offering to God? Is music an integral part of the liturgy
just as much as the communal prayers or psalm readings or
spoken lessons and sermons? Is the music an aid to the
congregants individual and communal worship?

Does your congregation applaud after sermons to show approval
or disapproval? Applaud after preludes and postludes, or
after anthems sung by the adult choirs? All the time or just
when the music or sermon is particularly "lively"? How often
does applause happen after a quiet, contemplative anthem,
sensitively sung? Or after an introspective sermon, delivered
in subdued tone? If applause is not consistently offered
after each and every anthem or sermon or reading, is it then
a kind of "voting" by the congregation. "I like this and
agree with that." "I didn't like that and object to this?"

I confess that when the congregation applauds after children
and youth choir anthems, I cringe. Too frequently applause is
a response to how "cute" or "darling" the children are and
not really a response to the calibre of the music or its
performance. And applause reinforces the view in the
children's minds, that they are there to entertain an
audience, not to offer their gifts to God. This is especially
true if the children are not an integral part of the entire
service, but are trotted in just to sing an anthem or two and
then leave for Sunday school or a children's activity.

I'm not involved in my church's music program, so I'll be
interested in seeing how other choral church musicians
respond. Thanks for asking this question.

Monica Hubbard, Member, All Saints Episcopal Church,
Pasadena, CA
__________________________________________

Our church rarely applauds for the choirs and special worship
music, but it has been a divisive issue. There are several
members who believe that we need to applaud to show
appreciation for the musicians' talent and hard work, while
others find the applause disrespectful on the grounds that it
is not conducive to a proper worship atmosphere. My personal
feeling has been that if we applaud for one musical event we
need to applaud for them all to avoid hurt feelings or a
competitive atmosphere (i.e. "they applauded for the men's
choir but not for the mixed choir..."), and as I don't feel
comfortable applauding EVERY time a choir, soloist, organist,
or other musician performs in the service, I would prefer we
didn't applaud at all. For what it's worth, I directed the
children's choir in my church for several years, and I don't
believe the children were ever discouraged or disappointed by
the lack of applause. We did, however, receive numerous
appreciative comments and/or written notes after the service,
and these were much more meaningful than obligatory applause
ever could have been. I now make a point to speak personally
or write a note of appreciation to musicians whose talents
I've felt particularly blessed by.

Kathy Graber
__________________________________________

Your minister needs to get over it. The children's choirs are
not there to entertain, I agree, but God can be praised by
the clapping of hands as well as by a "heartfelt amen" and it
is something the children will understand, and I guarantee
that if they are not applauded for, given that they see
applause in the secular world, they will wonder what they did
wrong when their enthusiastic singing is met with
overwhelming silence. Over time, I feel their enthusiasm will
wane, as will their attendance, as will your children's music
program. As for your minister, shame on him!

I am the director of a 2000 member United Methodist Church in
Greater New Orleans that is of a fairly high liturgical
tradition, and we wouldn't think of not applauding our
children.

Hope this helps,
Joseph A. Farrar, Director of Music, Munholland United
Methodist Church, New Orleans, Louisiana
__________________________________________

I say AMEN to the minister.
David McCormick
__________________________________________

I'm surprised! Coming from a Presbyterian background for many
years into, a United Methodist Church (North Wales, PA) about
13 years ago, I was, excited to see that the congregation
showed their appreciation for performance, ESCPECIALLY of
children's choirs by applauding. As a professional brass
player (& conductor) in the Philadelphia area, I bring in a
top notch brass quartet (&play with them) for several special
services. This is a contribution I make and it costs me at
least $150 per player (I work free since I'm paying for it)
and we are always rewarded with applause when "featured" on a
specific part of the program – not preludes or when playing
with the adult choir, but on our own - also, after the brass
& organ postlude, they will applaud.

At first it bothered me (I wasn't used to it -- now the
Presbyterians in the area do it too) since I wasn't use to
it. I agree with you, there is nothing wrong within the
contect you stated in your email. No one should be
embarrassed -- the Lord is the only one watching who matters,
and I'm sure that he is glad to see good things going on in
his service!

Jim Herbert, Conductor, PENNSY POPS Orch. (Philadelphia), and
Festivals Director, MUSIC MAESTRO PLEASE Festivals
__________________________________________

My Methodist minister has exactly the same policy. But the
congregation applauds anyway when the children sing. But
they, unfortunately, respect his wishes when the adults sing,
even when they have done a wonderful special program with
orchestra. I find this frustrating.

Charles Claiborne, Cumberland Methodist Church, Smyrna, GA
__________________________________________

In some churches people applaud when the groom and bride kiss
at a wedding; does your minister permit this? In other words,
are there any occasions at all in this church when there is
applause? You could see if there is any logical extension of
the pattern to argue for the children. The minister's point
is of course that church music is a prayer by the singers on
behalf of all the congregation, not a performance by some for
the enjoyment of the others. In that sense, Amen is a
response (and a joining in) to the prayer, NOT an expression
of appreciation for the music. And there's logic to that. You
need to think through what it is you want for the children
and why. We tend to think in this generation that kids should
get applauded/appreciated/praised for every little thing; are
you sure this is necessary? I grew up in church choirs in at
least 5 different churches (and five different denominations,
come to think of it) and nobody applauded. It never occurred
to me that anybody should. My argument is NOT the old "it was
good enough for me so it's good enough for today's kids"; I
want to say instead that I felt honored and proud even as a
child to be making music-as-prayer for the congregation, and
I would have felt that that MEANING was taken away if people
applauded. If you communicate to your children's choir the
rich significance of what they are doing, they will learn
that the greatest compliment they can earn is the stillness
of an audience that has been moved by their contribution to
the service.

Today, as a professional singer, I know that a few seconds of
utter stillness at the end of a song in a recital means that
I have taken my audience's breath away... and it thrills me.
__________________________________________

I think it's matter of a local church's theological
interpretation of the mission of church music: to glorify
God. If one thinks that the music is ONLY for God, as our
kind of "tribute" or homage, then a "respectful" person
usually does not like applause, which can distract from the
God- centeredness of the service. If one thinks, however,
that we all share in and can symbolize God's enthusiastic
response through our own clapping, then we can rationalize
applause. I, personally, do not like any applause in a
service because it can distract from the meditative,
pentitential (etc.) atmosphere that comforts many
worshippers. To me all music goes "up" to God, not out to an
"audience"; the congregation is a prayerful witness to the
glorification of God through music explained innumerable
times in the Old Testament. But then some folks will point to
the Psalm "Clap your hands" (Plaudite) and wonder why you
can't applaud. . It's personal/congregational taste in the
end.

Bruce MacIntyre, Brooklyn College
__________________________________________

I'd have to agree with your minister. Our function in liturgy
is to praise and adore God, and lead others to the same
focus. As simple as that sounds, it is increasingly difficult
in our contemporary culture to maintain the God-focus. In
order that we may enable both ourselves and others to learn
the discipline of that focus, I believe that the concept must
be taught from early childhood, and the teaching must
continue throughout adulthood. The Christian faith is
generally at odds with a culture which seeks and thrives upon
instant gratification and a "me first" orientation.

Might I suggest an alternative: If you have a time for
fellowship following your service of worship, why not have
your children's choir come into that fellowship space as a
group, and have a few parents "planted" to begin an
appreciative applause as they enter? Without a doubt, the
kids will know why they are being applauded, the appreciation
can be totally uninhibited in its exuberance, the God-focus
during your service of worship will be preserved -- and you
will have begun a very valuable teaching process which might
just help this wounded culture of ours survive in spite of
itself. :-)

Herbert Tinney, Choirmaster & Organist, The Church of the
Ascension (Episcopal), Buffalo, New York
(Sometime Lecturer in Church Music & Director of Chapel
Music, The General Theological Seminary of the Episcopal
Church, NYC; Choirmaster & Organist, The Cathedral Church of
St John, Wilmington DE; Choirmaster & Organist, St Paul's
Cathedral, Buffalo NY)
__________________________________________

Just my opinion, but I feel that your minister has a good
point. I don't think that there is anything wrong with
publicly expressing appreciation for a choir, but there are
other ways to do that without clapping. I think that by not
clapping it takes away that immediate, conditioned (i.e.
polite) response and it may well help the choir to understand
that their singing is but one part of a much larger ministry.
It not only shows the congregation that the kids' singing
isn't just a performance, it shows the kids that they are not
there to be entertaining, but to enhance the worship--
hopefully even helping *lead* the worship musically if that
is indeed part of their function. I am thrilled to be a part
of a place where children play such an active, vital role in
worship each week. I work with a men and boys choir and I
tell them that their foremost job is to lead the worship--the
music *and* the spoken parts--and that it would be nice if
they sing the choral music well, too! While our church could
probably be accused of being a bit stuffy to some in many
respects, others call it elegant" or "tasteful." But who's to
say for sure what defines the "perfect" worship experience
and if clapping helps or hurts that experience? Certainly
there is no clapping for the choir here, but every church is
so different, regardless of denomination. Our tradition and
goals may differ from the role your own children's and youth
choir plays in your Sunday worship, but I have found that I
get precious little more from my choir than what I expect, so
I expect a lot! I do think that the age of the children
involved will make a tremendous difference in this
discussion, too. (I don't have any kids under 8 years old. If
you have a choir of 5 to 6 year-olds, it might be very hard
to resist the urge to praise their efforts with anything
other than applause!)
__________________________________________

My church (a bible-Presbyterian church) also adopts a 'no-
clapping' stand because we feel that the a service is not
only ministering to the congregation but also a worship and
praise session to God, therefore clapping would interrupt the
solemnity of the service. But whenever our children present
an item, we would smile and nod as a form of acknowledgment
for their performance.
__________________________________________

Just read your question about applause for church choirs,
especially children's church choirs in the choralist digest,
from Thursday. I wanted to stand with your minister on the
question. I'm pretty opposed to applause for choir's in
church too, and for the same reason. It's not just
entertainment (even though it can be endlessly entertaining),
it is praise. And though' there is an argument that folks
need to express their reaction, I don't find it compelling
enough to justify applause. (Sort of think applause is a
secular thing. Had to discipline myself to tolerate many
folks that have the opposing view; that's a different topic.)

I've held that opinion as a church chorister (Presbyterian)
for years. Saw something at a combined Bible Conference and
Church Music Conference three years ago that helped. It was
the night a children's choir was singing at an evening
service. There has always been some acrimony/pain over
parents running down front with cameras when any children's
choir sings, and then applauding wildly. A minister asked the
congregation to not do that, and to express our gratitude by
simply raising our hands and waving them, rather than
applauding. (I can't remember if he specifically said we were
directing the praise to God, but it kind of fits.) Folks did
that, and I'll never forget an older elementary, maybe age 10
to 12, looking up from his music, seeing hands waving all
over the hall, and saying out loud "Wow!" It made the evening
special.

Hope that helps.
Jim Green, business manager and bass, New Ark Chorale
__________________________________________

I'm with your minister. Do you applaud for sermons? Scripture
readings? Communion? Since the purpose of music in worship is
to instruct, the best response is think about the message.
Clapping suggests that the clothing, rather than the content,
has been noticed.

Allen H Simon
Bay Area Lutheran Chorale
__________________________________________

The congregation always applauds heartily for our children's
choir...and I think it makes a big difference in how the kids
feel about singing! Our kids know that they are there to help
the congregation worship and that they are sharing a special
gift that they've been given. They know that they are singing
first and foremost for God...but even so, you should see
their faces light up when they hear the applause and they are
always elated to hear that they've done a great job.

Our congregation has even been known to break forth in
applause for the adult choir...and I've got to admit that we
like it too!! Sometimes it's just that kind of spontaneous
offering that lets you know that you've reached them.

Cheers! Sandy Hanes, Director of Morgan Hill Presbyterian
Church's Children's Choir
__________________________________________

For What It's Worth: I happen to agree with your Pastor for
at least two reasons, being: In today's "modern" society,
applause is synonymous with entertainment, whether we like it
or not. If children in a church choir receive applause, they
go away thinking that the purpose of a choir is to entertain
the congregation. The only audience that we as church
musicians should have is God; Our one and only purpose is to
give praise and glory to God alone. If children grow
accustomed to receiving applause for a job well-done, what
will happen on a given occasion when, for whatever reason,
those children do not receive applause. What kind of a
message will they receive? Is the applause an expression of
true appreciation of the musical efforts given my the
children or merely an outpouring of "warm fuzzies" created by
the cutsiness of the little cherubs.

Does your adult choir (or other musical groups) receive
applause for its efforts? I would hope not. Children should
be trained to think as adults: A choir's main purpose (again)
is to lead the congregation in its worship of God through
music, just as the pastor leads the congregation in
proclamation of the Gospel through words. Does you
congregation applaud the pastor's sermons and prayers?
__________________________________________

In the Anglican church generally, it is not the custom to
interrupt a service with applause, as the service is not
entertainment, but it is the work of the whole congregation.
The music offered by the choir is regarded as being offered
on behalf of all the congregation, and needs no
acknowledgment other than attentive reception by the non-
performing part of the congregation. However, part of our
service includes a time for notices -both from the Rector and
from lay persons. I would see this point as being a suitable
one at which to publicly thank the choir for its
contribution, and the speaker invite the congregation to
convey its appreciation in the customary way.....

Lesley de Voil, Director of Music, St.Luke's Anglican Church,
Toowoomba, Queensland, Australia
__________________________________________

Your minister may be on sound theological and liturgical
ground, but practically speaking, try to get most
congregations to pipe up "Amen!" Singers and players work --
although there is a prevailing service and sacred side to it,
it's still work -- hard to make beautiful music at worship.
It is appropriate for hearers to say thanks in one way or
another. Might it work to remind your pastor that one very
spontaneous human response to beauty that arouses a sense of
awe or wonder is to clap one's hands together and say 'ahh!'
????

Lani Johnson, Nysara Studios, North Coast Chorale, North
Coast Chamber Ensemble Warrenton, Oregon
__________________________________________

Our congregation started clapping after the children sang an
anthem, then for the youth choir, then the Men's Bible Class
pealing bells to begin worship! It started to look and sound
as if we were going to clap after everything (why not
prayers, sermons, etc.?). Then there is the problem of the
congregation clapping for some musical offerings and not for
others? Does that mean they didn't approve of the music or it
didn't help them worship? And is it a performance or an
offering? We rarely clap in worship after the senior minister
wrote about it in the newsletter and I am thankful!
__________________________________________

Thanks for your post to Choralist. The issue of applause
always intrigues me, because I usually find myself of two
minds on the subject! I am surprised a clergy-person actually
took a stand on something like this; my experience has
usually been the clergy would rather fence-sit and let
parents and other members of the congregation fight it out!

Show your minister Psalm 47, " o clap your hands..." Remind
him or her that it is possible that applause offered at
church is directed at God, not the children. The fact is,
though, most folks think of applause as a way of showing
appreciation for the ones who have done something. Clapping
for the children in appreciation of them can seem to make
worship a performance of sorts. Certainly our worship is a
performance for the glorification of God. In the past I have
been quite clear for those with whom I work that musicians
are performing at church. I don't try to dodge the issue,
because I think that to do so makes church performances
somehow less than what they should be. By this I mean I
expect the same work, effort, dedication, etc. for a church
performance as any other concert-type performance. The
difference is that church performances are for the glory of
God, not the entertainment of the congregation. There are of
course two sides to this issue also.

Ultimately, let the dilemma be a chance to engage your whole
congregation, and the staff in their planning, to discuss
what worship is, and who it can be most effective. Talk it
over in worship committee, music committee, and at the board
meeting with the expressed desire not to make a final
decision, but simply to consider the issues involved and to
learn what our biblical faith, church tradition, reason and
experience can offer to guide you.

For my own part, I feel best when I hear a smattering of
applause, and a few hearty "amens" after anything that has
moved the congregation, whether it is a musical offering, and
good point in the sermon, or the benediction!

You probably won't arrive at a definitive solution o
on June 9, 2002 10:00pm
I am a cradle Episcopalian, singer and music lover. We, along with our mainline Christian church brothers and sisters sing the best damn music on Sunday morning. I give thanks for our music and the composers who are turning it out this day in age.

Music is what does my worship right. When my guys and girls sang in my previous congregation, we used to get applause by surprise. There were "AMENS"! I thought it was great.

Now, when I hear a good piece of music at worship, I will respond with, "AIN'T IT GOOD YOU ALL!" or "OH, YEAH!" or "SING A SONG!" and the biggest smiles come from my congregation. They don't have the guts to cheer in worship. I do.

MAKE A JOYFUL NOISE UNTO THE LORD and don't stop.

Keith Charles Edwards
St. John in the Village, NYC
keithsy@juno.com

on August 30, 2002 10:00pm
I have grown up as an ELCA Lutheran and for the last six years have been a director of music in a strongly liturgical ELCA Lutheran Church. Prior to that, I handled contemporary worship for three years and worked in the Roman Catholic tradition for three years.

That said, I am a strong opponent of applause during a regular worship service. I would beg to differ with those who claim that the pastor "has an issue with the success of the church choir." The model to which I subscribe is that the pastor, the organist, the choir, the lector, the assisting minister, and additional musicians are PROMPTERS. The congregation is the PROCLAIMER. God is the AUDIENCE. Keep in mind that the word "liturgy" is derived from the Greek word "liturgia," which translated means "work of the people." The ENTIRE CONGREGATION proclaims the Word of God through spoken word and music. Pastors, lay leaders, and musicians are part of the congregation and LEAD the congregation in its "work."

The "leaders" of worship are not doing this on behalf of the congregation -- they are an EXTENSION of the congregation and leading the congregation's proclamation of God's Word. We are ONE BODY of worshipers, rather than "performers and audience." To that end, those who present musical offerings in worship are not "entertaining" the congregation -- they are proclaiming God's Word.

Another approach under which I subscribe -- God presents all of us with many gifts (be they musical or non-musical). We are called by God to share the gifts that we have been given with others. Some people have the gift of preaching. Some people have the gift of playing a musical instrument or singing. Some people have other talents used in worship (such as visual arts, effective speaking, hospitality, etc.). ALL of those gifts are EQUALLY important in having a meaningf
on October 11, 2002 10:00pm
Church choirs are not entertainment. Church music is solely for the glorification of God. These points have been previously made. I would also add, however, that the religious experience is not about how WE feel. Consequently, whether we like the music, the readings or any of the liturgical arts is NOT of consequence.

Applause disturbs me a lot. However, what is really disturbing to me is the shift of focus in the religious experience to "me and how I feel." If we praise the Creator who gives us the gift of music, the musical offering will speak for itself. Applauding musical offering is not appropriate because, for example, terrible choirs, while not being able to sing well, cannot be faulted for not being able to praise God as well as others.

As for children, while it is nice to make them feel good and appreciated, they must learn that lack of applause does not invalidate their efforts because they should not be doing it for applause! Furthermore, even the best efforts in school or sports, for example, will not necessarily be met with the appreciation that they may deserve. Children need to learn this so they will not depend on others for validation.

Finally, the notion that applause is equivalent to a hearty "amen," is completely off the point. "Amen" means "so be it," not "you've done a great job."
on October 18, 2002 10:00pm
Coming from a tradition where congregational, acappella, singing led by a MALE leader has been the ONLY choral expression in worship. You might think I would oppose applause. I probably lean more against it, but have noticed a change in the past few years. In some of the more progressive c of c's "Praise Groups" have begun to emerge. They are usually composed of a quarted or quintet with microphones. Sometimes they are on a stage, sometimes seated together. In some of the more progressive churches these groups will "perform" a song and receive applause for their efforts. Those are the exceptions.

In reading the comments, I was amazed that so many contributers thought special groups were not "performers." In our discussions over the years, one of the objections of having choirs was the fact that the groups WERE performers and, therefore, could not follow the New Testament examples. We would discuss endlessly the "evils" of choirs and instramental music in worship. If I had a penny for every minute I have heard these issues discussed, I could retire.

So, what is the conclusion in this matter? I did not see this idea presented in any of the responses.

Using Paul's admonition to the Corinthian church's problem with "meat offered to idols" he concluded that there are many matters of conscience and opinion whereby we can not force ours on someone else and that we should be tolerant in those areas. It is probably one of the hardest concepts to grasp and apply since we have to show love to our brothers and sisters in the Faith. Wow, what a CONCEPT!!

on October 24, 2002 10:00pm
This question has been discussed at length at my church. At first there was no clapping and then it started and evolved to fairly often. I feel about applause as I do about other actions that people do just because everyone else is doing it. To me if some piece moves me I need the silence and the applause is like "clanging cymbals". It just jars me and ruins the moment.
on November 4, 2002 10:00pm
My response to whether applause should be allowed in church is yes...and no. What is the purpose of the musician in church? It's the same as the pastor, the Sunday school teacher, the deacons, etc. His purpose is to first and foremost honor and glorify the Lord Jesus Christ, and to minister his message to his listeners. That worship is then shared and empathized with the rest of the congregation. The question of applause is, as are many like issues, a difficult one to answer.

I applause freely at concerts, operas, zarzuelas and recitals which I attend frequently. I go them so that artist may interpret great works of art, so that I may appreciate the artist's skill, and that we all enjoy a good evening of music. Sometimes, I have to settle with mediocre skill, but I still appreciate the effort.

But we are not dealing with performance (one man here mentioned that he could not distinguish performance from non-performance). Performance is an attempt to interpret a given composer's work to a given audience, with the intention of displaying the skill and art of both composer and performer. One who performs does not attempt to instill doctrine, morals or spiritual convictions in their audience. However, a church musician is, in a very real sense, a minister of God. He steps in front of group of persons to relate a message that the Lord has laid on his heart. We don't judge his skills and abilities, nor should our attention be placed mainly on the music and its composers. Our attention should be drawn to the message and the Lord behind the message.

When children sing in church, they don't have the maturity to understand all that entails worship and the seriousness of ministering to others. They need encouragement and enthusiasm. However, adults should not necessarily need--much less expect--this outward praise for their "efforts". Many times, a hand-shake and a "Thank you" are more necessary and, more often, appropiate.

I personally would not applaud after a sermon, for example. That's not a natural response to exhortation and the teaching of doctrine. I take it to heart, but I don't cheer his efforts. Applause is a form of collective response to an act or word destined to appease an audience. But, we are dealing with mutual worship. I think that applause would distract from the center of the message given--God and His Son Jesus Christ.

This is not an exaustive argument, given the situation, but I hope it will suffice. I don't condemn those who prefer applause in church. I don't claim to have all the answers, and this is just one man's opinion, but allow me to defend this pastor from a more neutral standpoint. The discouragement of applause in church may not be due to what applause in and of itself means and represents, but rather what could eventually come of it.


Christian Lindsey
Elche, Spain
on November 7, 2002 10:00pm
Try doing away with the church choir on Sunday morning altogether and let the congregation do all of the singing (historical note on early church roots in Acts). Not everyone would like it but it would probably end the applause controversy. Of course, if that happens, it will just be replaced by another one!
on November 21, 2002 10:00pm
We have discussed this topic several times here at my church. There have been a very few times in the past year I have been here (I could count them on my hand) that there has been applause for a musical offering in worship. In general the congregation applauds when they are especially moved, but it is not a general rule to applaud for each musical offering. I think that is fine. Sometimes you are so moved that you must respond - and that is a wonderful thing, to think my choir has done that. As long as it remains an exception and not a rule, I think it is fine. I always do my best to let my choir know that they are appreciated and to tell them when they have done well, so I hope that they do not need to hear applause to be affirmed - this is regardless of their age!
on November 26, 2002 10:00pm
I have been fascinated by all of the responses to applause in church. What a vast array of viewpoints on the matter. Although I didn't read through every single response letter, I did seem to find one thing missing in every letter.
Growing up Methodist, then Lutheran, I attended an ELCA Lutheran college (St. Olaf College in Northfield, MN). I found myself searching for an answer to the same question about applause in church. I understand both opinions on the matter, but feel strongly about my own. Allow me to explain.
About two years ago, I came to the full saving knowledge of Jesus Christ, the author and perfector of my salvation and the lover of my soul (SEE Song of Songs). It was then that I came to the full realization of what God did when he sent his only Son to a cross to be hung, shamed, and brutally beaten, so that I might have life, and have it more abundantly (John 10:10). Knowing that Jesus paid the full, entire price of sin and death so that I might life - I cannot help myself - I sing, shout, laugh, and cry in church after any group sings, provided my spirit is stirred.
Once I took time to ponder what Jesus really did - I have been applauding his obedience ever since.

Religious people scoff at my passion, but religion doesn't get me to heaven. Jesus did.

Tom Phelps
Rockford High School, Rockford MN
Living Word Christian Center, Brooklyn Park, MN
on January 3, 2003 10:00pm
My choir jokingly refers to themselves as the frozen chosen. In my 3.5 years at First Presbyterian church of Mount Pleasant the congregation has applauded maybe 6 times including Cantatas or seasonal specials.

Sometimes when we perform a moving piece or a technically difficult piece a pregnant pause followed by a sigh is just as rewarding for the church.

They do however applaud the children everytime to encourage them. We are a small congregation with maybe 10 kids between first and fifth grade.

Personally I believe that a church is a place of reverance.

Roy Benson
First Presbyterian Church of Mount Pleasant, Texas
on January 13, 2003 10:00pm
Thanks for raising this question. I am impressed with the quality of the responses. I sing in several music groups in a 600-member United Church of Christ congregation in Chapel Hill, NC. Our services are fairy informal, and folks applaud virtually every anthem or solo, whether sung by children or adult . My discomfort with this is that I like to draw a distinction between a performance for an audience's entertainment and an act of worship. I guess that when we start applauding a pastoral prayer or the Apostle's Creed, I'll feel better about clapping for an anthem. To me, the applauder is saying, "Well done. You have entertained me well." Sorry, but that wasn't my purpose when I sang that anthem, and you should realize that and not insult me or your fellow worshippers by regarding it as a show for your entertainment. It's true that choirs work at singing well, and if that constitutes "performance," so be it, but that fact doesn't change the setting and the point of that performance. It's good to be appreciated,of course, but there are plenty of other, more appropriate ways to show that.
Raleigh Mann, Chapel Hill, NC
on February 18, 2003 10:00pm
At Stratford Ct United Methodist Church there is no "policy" on applause. The youth choirs are generally applauded. Usually the adult choir hears an amen or two from the congregation. On rare occasions there is mild applause. Usually the Vesper Service at Christmas ends with applause. On Easter the Halleluah Chorus from the Messiah is met with applause. There have been other times when applause is heard. Last Sunday was one of those times. The adult choir ventured away from the usual blend of classical, traditional, and contemporary anthems into the realm of the spiritual (Jesus is a Listenin'). To our surprise a hearty applause followed. So you never know. My personal feeling, as a singer in the choir, is that applause should be kept to a minimum. I feel a much greater satisfaction when a worshipper stops me at coffee hour and mentions how moving or inspirational the anthem was. My feeling is when that happens we have succeeded in our music ministry. Leave applause for the nights when I sing with the town's community chorus.
on March 10, 2003 10:00pm
Call me a stiff-necked old geezer (I'm actually 'only' 57, but I've been stiff-necked all my life) but I hold with those who believe that worship music is exactly that, worship. It is an offering to God and expressions of praise for the "offerers" are out of place. At our church, Old South Union Congregational, our policy is even not to applaud the children's choir. I realize this will drive many to apoplexy, but we hope bythis to teach them that it is not about them, but about worship.
on March 23, 2003 10:00pm
Latter-day Saint (Mormon) tradition holds that applause is inappropriate in the chapel, though the Stake President can give approval for it.
At a concert we gave last year, applause broke out spontaneously at the end. It was nice, although a bit strange!

This year, I'm doing it a bit differently. To preserve the mood, we're going to discourage applause in the chapel, but after the performance, there will be refreshments and chatting in the adjoining cultural hall. There I'll give some brief thank you's, bouquets to the soloists, and I expect applause to happen there. Best of both.

So I guess we'll see if the audience can contain themselves. :)
on March 30, 2003 10:00pm
Applause in church is not just a matter of "lighten up". That trivializes the discussion. I do not like applause in church for the adult choir and soloists. It's alright for the children's choirs, as they need the positive reinforcement that(hopefully) mature adults do not need. This became such a problem in my church that there was not only appluase after the anthem EVERY week, but once even applause after the choral introit (tacky!). This is not in the least spontaneous, but turns into an expectation. It got so bad that choir director once remarked that we didn't get as much applause after an anthem one week as we did the previous week. That is not why we are there. The choir anthem is a part of the worship service, NOT a recital. As a performer outside of the church setting, I have gotten my share of applause and neither need nor want it in the worship service. I occasionally sing solos, (accompanied by my choir director) and the last time I did so, when applause started, I raised my hand and shook my head "No". The congrgation got the message. There are plenty of other ways to show your appreciation for a musical job well done. The most effective (and appropriate) is a verbal compliment after the service.

Another problem with applause is that it isn't always enthusiastic - in my church, it was done so often that it became very half-hearted after awhile, which can be more embarrasing to congregation and choir alike than uplifting. It also presents the problem of making people feel like they have to applaud when they don't feel naturally moved to do so.

In short, check your ego at the church door and pick it up on the way out. If you need applause that bad, go on the stage.
on April 17, 2003 10:00pm
I have sung in many denominations of churches--what a loaded question! It depends on the piousness of the denomination. I suppose you have to ask yourself what is "sin..." That's what it all boils down to in the end, isn't it? Aren't you afraid that if you are an adult and you have people clapping for your "offering unto God" after a particularly pleasing musical number, who you are pleasing? Forbid me to feel any pride that my offering was pleasing unto an audience and not unto the Lord...or could you be glad that what you did inspired people and that they remembered this pleasing sacrifice into the week and carried it in their hearts because the sound, words, etc. were not grating on their ears and on their sensibilities?! Children want to please...and they carry this through even to their adulthood...that's why "sin" and "guilt" work along with contrition, isn't it? I think any believer needs to THINK about that...and about their guilt factor...and how truly "free indeed" they are from sin and all its ramifications after confessing to a belief in Christ and the cross.
on May 2, 2003 10:00pm
After reading though the opinions on this page, I am left with a few thoughts:

First, in regards to man that mentioned silent waving of hands in place of applause - I have been told that the way deaf people show appreciation is by raising their hands in the air and waving their fingers. It is literally applause without sound. This can be a wonderful substitute for applause that doesn't ruin the mood left by the closing chord of a beautiful anthem. However, if you believe that applause in itself is fundamentally wrong then this does not remove the aspect of showing appreciation for the performance. This leads me to my next thought...

Yes, in general I agree with the sentiment that the music should be an offering to God and not a performance for the benefit of either the singers or the congregation. However, as a musician, I know that when I am singing or playing music, and I know I am doing a good job, it touches me on a special level, and I'd like to believe that it touches the congregation in the same way. Should we then not encourage our church musicians to make music to the best of their abilities? We're providing a service, after all, though many people might not like to look at it like that. I don't necessarily believe that applause is the best way to encourage good work, but I do believe it is very important to make our musicians feel appreciated. The vast majority of churches have volunteer choirs; as much as we'd like to put on moral airs, we can't expect all of our choir members to contribute, monk-like, with no positive reinforcement. I have found that, after my choir sings their anthem, a smile of thanks before I seat them goes miles to accomplish this feeling of appreciation. If your choir is feeling underappreciated, find a few members of the congregation and remind them what the service would be like without the choir. I guarantee you that they'll make a point to thank a choir member next chance they get.

As for children's choirs, my church is very small and as such we do not have a children's choir. I truly believe, however that the same small gestures of appreciation that go so far with the adults would perhaps go even farther with the children (though of course that gesture might take a different form with a six-year-old than with a sixty-year-old). As someone mentioned above, children today are so starved for attention and appreciation that even acknowledging their contribution will in most cases be more than enough to make them feel important. I agree with the many people who commented that they are not there for decoration or fluff, and they should be told (and shown) what an important contribution they are making to worship.

Thankfully, applause in worship has not been a major issue in my church, though I am usually uncomfortable when it does happen. Of course, the congregation is just as uncomfortable - after one excellent performance (I try to avoid the "p" word whenever I can...) by a guest musician, there was a palpable tension in the air; finally, the pastor said "It's okay, you can clap," and the feeling of relief that came over the room, along with the applause, made the moment even more wonderful.

One final thought: As you can see, I don't really feel strongly either way about applause itself (and I know I've been lucky that I haven't had to take sides), but I do feel strongly about some of the related issues. I think it really boils down to the motivations of the church, from the individual members, to the choir, to the staff, to the pastor, all the way to the overall attitude of the church. It all depends on why you're there and what you're getting out of it. The problem is that there's not really any way to see where the line is crossed. (One of the very first letters addressed this.) An example: There is a church in my community that is very large and successful, at least on the outside. They have huge attendence, have built several large buildings in the past few years, have oodles of youth activites, and, of course, have an enormous music program. As an outside observer, the point at which they crossed that imaginary line was when they began referring to the raised platform at the front of the sanctuary as the "stage." Because of that small detail, I can no longer see their music ministry in the same light.

So, to sum it all up, I believe it all comes down to your motivation. If you want to show your appreciation by clapping, then clap all day. Just make sure that however you express your appreciation, it is for the way that the music enhanced your worship experience - not for the performance.
on May 14, 2003 10:00pm
Applause in church is too much like the world. "Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord" (2 Corinthians 6:17). When we're at church, we're not at a David Lettermen show or the Grammies. It makes me (and surely visitors) feel like we're at a rock concert or sitting in the Grammies. One way to be different from the world is to not clap after people sing. How often do you hear David Lettermen say "Amen"? You don't, because it's not something common to worldlings, yet applause after music IS common to them.

The other problem with applause in church is people aren't consistent. Why don't they clap after they hear a song on Christian radio? Why don't they clap "in praise to God" when they see His beautiful mountains or oceans? It just goes to show you that people clap to be heard by other humans, not God. This inconsistency also shows you that people aren't really thinking when they're clapping in church. It's almost involuntary applause. The only rhyme and reason for applauding when they do is because of environmental factors.

Let's face it. Most people clap either because 1) they're sitting next to someone who's clapping and they feel compelled to clap, or 2) the clapper has been to too many concerts or seen too much clapping on TV so when he's at church it feels like the normal thing to do. I doubt anybody in church really claps to God. If clapping after a song feels like the natural response, it's probably because they've been submersed in hellevision all week long.

If people really clapped because they wanted to or because "the Spirit of God lead them to," then why does everyone stop clapping at about the same time? I think it's because nobody likes to stand out. But how spontaneous is that?

As far as Psalm 47, the clapping there was not after a choir sung a song in front of the church! If you want to clap, clap DURING the music to the beat, that is, when it's appropriate. But let's not look and act like the world does. Let's stand out so others will see a difference between worldlings and Christians. Why be a Christian if there's no difference?
on May 31, 2003 10:00pm
Imagine my surprise at finding myself in agreement with Presbyterian ministers, and my former choirmaster. Clearly I've grown up a lot. I will have to stop and see Mr. Tinney when next I get home to Buffalo.

I think it's Fr. George Rutler or Peter Kreeft who says (I'll paraphrase): if you have to tell the priest why he shouldn't wear cheese on his head while saying Mass, you have already lost the argument.

Of course clapping in Church is always wrong. This is not primarily because clapping is wrong, but because there are times and places where it is proper (meet?) and others where it clearly is not. I'll never forget the jarring sensation I endured when a priest responded "Thank You" to our response "And also with you". The response was part of the ritual, the whole of which is designed to raise our hearts and minds to the things of God. His "Thank You" was more out of place than jeans and a tee-shirt are at the prom.

Besides, there's clapping, and then there's clapping. How would the pro-clapping crowd feel if the "get on with it already" clapping began?

Chris Garton-Zavesky
Organist and Choirmaster
St. Philip the Apostle Catholic Church
Statesville NC
on June 2, 2003 10:00pm
I've learned in life to pick my battles. Frankly, this issue isn't as important as many would make it. I'd like to see where God in His perfect wisdom adresses this to us in the Bible. The fact is, He doesn't. God seems to have other more important issues to discuss with us than whether or not applause is appropriate. I think Paul says it best in his discourse about eating meat offered to idols (which is really about Christian liberty in general). i.e.: Applause is okay for those with strong faith, but if it offends someone with weak faith, don't do it.
on July 7, 2003 10:00pm
Applause can be directed as thanks to God for the great efforts of the children or appropriate group by the Pastor saying something along the lines of, "Let us put our hands together to thank the Lord for the great job the Sonshine singers did!"

One wouldn't do that all the time, but occasionally it might be useful.
on July 24, 2003 10:00pm
I'm a member of an A.M.E. church where if we don't clap it is considered very rude . Our Pastor always asks the congregation to clap after any preformance.. I see nothing wrong with clapping in any church its another way of praising God..


Quinn A.M.E. Vocies of Praise
Steubenville,Ohio
on October 20, 2003 10:00pm
I'm not sure if anyone continues to check this, but I noticed something in reading it. The original posting was more than a year ago, yet there is still at least one posting per month (excepting the last couple). The debate is ongoing, and will remain that way.

It is ultimately up to the individual. Not the individual congregation, not the individual denomination, not the individual pasoter. The individual person in the pew. We cannot see the motivation in the hearts of the congregation.

That having been said, I DO CLAP when I have been touched by the hand of God through the music. I DO NOT CLAP for the singer, whether young or old, except when I am moved at that level on which only God through music can move (hence, explanation for not clapping for a sermon).
on November 6, 2003 10:00pm
The issue of applause in church has always been a question in my mind. I strongly oppose any attitude of performance in a church service. The musicians are there to glorify God and to lead the congregation; to spread the word of God. One of my mentors advocated the philosophy that we serve the Lord in everything we do, and because of that we should always strive for excellence. Excellence is praise. Hard work is praise.

I know that I always wish to show gratitude to those who work hard in service to God. My issue with applause isn't that I think it inappropriate as a gesture of thanks, but as a disruption of the service. Especially for more prayerful pieces of music I feel that applause can ruin the opportunity for us to reflect on what we have just heard. It IS important to realise that a lack of applause does not indicate that the congregation doesn't appreciate the music. I was once a part of a concert performance that included a piece dedicated to a member of our community who had recently been killed. The entire audience of 500 people collectively thought it best to remain silent after the piece was finished. There was no reason to believe we lacked any appreciation for the music.

My home congregation has come up with a great compromise that allows us to show appreciation without disrupting the service. We are a very warm and intimate congregation that embraces diversity. We have learned that in the deaf community it is common practice to applaud VISIBLY rather than audibly, by raising your arms and waving your hands. Our congregation has decided to do that, rather than disrupt the silence that others may be using to reflect on the music and the message. Perhaps this option will be a good compromise for your congregations.
on November 9, 2003 10:00pm
I have been a church choir director for about 10 years and have always felt strongly on this issue. I was raised Southern Baptist, though I have directed in a Presbyterian church for the whole of my church music career.

In my home tradition, every solo and choir piece resulted in applause. Assessment of performance or affirmation of the "meaningfulness" of what had been presented never seemed to enter into the decision to applaud. They applauded every time. period. That was back when taped accompaniments became all the rage. The solos and anthems began to take on a distincly secular character, because now, with the canned music, country-ish, rock-ish, blues-ish songs with flashy orchestrations were now about $5.00 each at the local Christian book shop. But I know that is a whole other issue.

I agree whole-heartedly that applause should be avoided in church, and please don't give me the "O Clap Your Hands" scripture. I believe that passage is about exuberance directed at God, not as a RESPONSE to a musical event. How many people are REALLY clapping in praise to God? Are they really thinking, "I should clap right now because I love God so much.?"

At my current church, applause is avoided except when we sing the Hallelujah chorus....that always gets applause, and there is nothing to be done about it. Similarly, by the way, trying to get adults NOT to applaud for children is a losing battle. Just get used to it.

However, I believe education is the key. I don't feel it is appropriate that many of the people responding have questioned your pastor's motives. Maybe he feels that way for the right reasons.

If this bothers you, talk to him about it. It is okay to tell him how you feel. Get into dialog. At least you could have a heart-to-heart about his rationale. Maybe then you could see where he is coming from.

Then it may be appropriate to spend some time in worship educating the congregation as to his convictions on the subject. Demystifying views is the best way to avoid confict and resentment. If no one explains anything, then he will remain the stodgy old pastor who "has his heart in the wrong place."

Hope this helps.

Leonard Raybon, Director of Choirs at Tulane University and Lakeview Presbyterian Church, New Orleans.
on November 21, 2003 10:00pm
The experiences that we have in worship can shape how we worship. I believe that congregations need to have a bigger role in worship and sing more than they do. Is the congregation "worshiping" or are they "at" worship being entertained? I've attended plenty of churches where the congregation expects to be "entertained" more than they worship. We've lost sight of why we are there in the first place! Would a congregation applaud themselves after singing a hymn together?
on December 20, 2003 10:00pm
I think that appluase should never interrupt the liturgy under and contions. Applause should be held until the end of the service and if the music program was special for that day I think that appreciation in the form of applause if appropritate. In the case of a childrens choir that may only sing one particular work at the liturgy, it seems appropriate to applaud immediately after the work is concluded. If the childrens choir is doing the entire liturgy, applause should be done at the end of the liturgy.
on February 12, 2004 10:00pm
The best and most meaningful "applause" for church music is to make a decision to live your life more Christ-like in response to what the choir--be it adult, youth or children--has sung. While it is good to encourage children to sing in worship, they can learn that worship music is not for entertainment. Clapping in our society has a huge association with performance--whether we want it to or not. How we honor God with our lives is the best response to music in worship, just as how we might respond to a sermon that moves us, or any other part of worship. Applause offends so many people in churches that it would be better not to applaud than to offend someone. True worship is how we live our lives--not how boisterous or exciting the service at church might be.
on April 14, 2004 10:00pm
i know this issue is probably long dead... who knows if anyone even reads this post any more?

here's my take: what is the nature of true worship? it causes us to be drawn away from ourselves and focuses our gaze on the Lord. i have a job that requires me to be in the world the whole week (as most of you do). sunday worship is a time where i want to reflect on the holiness of God and be humbled before him. we're a clapping church - we even clap and WHISTLE for the baptisms. and every time i hear it, it jars me away from my contemplation of the Holy. i'm rudely yanked back into a people-focused wash of sound. i know worship is not soley an EXPERIENCE. but there should be an aspect of "other-ness" about worship. "the Lord is in his holy temple; let all the earth keep silent before Him!" we'd do well to approach our worship in this way. where is our attention being drawn? to God, or to man? by the end of the week, i'm sick of focusing on Man. just a thought.

dan k
on June 15, 2004 10:00pm
The question for me is not about the applause - it's about the Choir's RESPONSE to the applause. I can't keep people from clapping their hands once in a while, nor can I second-guess their motivation for doing so. I can almost always predict that a given anthem will generate applause, and I try to forewarn the Choir that the congregation may clap when we sing it.

Our response is to SIT, then bow our heads in grateful prayer. We don't smile beamingly at the congregation. We don't acknowledge the applause at all. We sit and bow, just as we do after every anthem that doesn't receive applause.

If applause is interfering with worship in your church, you might ask yourself what you are (perhaps even subconciously) doing to encourage/discourage this behavior. Then I recommend that you ask God to direct you as you lead the congregation humbly in worship.

Jo Anne Taylor
Bethlehem Covenant Church
on June 21, 2004 10:00pm
Applause in church is something that I have given a lot of thought to. I feel that applause in church boils down to a form of spontaneous corporate adjudication. If a hot shot wunderkind plays or sings a piece and receives applause one week, but littly Billy presents a modest but well-done musical offering the next, but receives no applause, what is he to think? Subsstitute above: Adult Choir one week; Children's Choir the next--same issue.

I find that a long silence in which the hearers and performers bask in the beauty of what they just experienced to be the ultimate compliment. It shows that people connected with the essence of the musical idea, and might quite possibly have been transported to a higher place from which to view their humanity. For those wanting to linger there, applause might well be viewed as an unwanted annoyance.

If people really want to show their appreciation, I'd much rather have a face-to-face conversation with them about the music, a phone call or, even better, a note in the mail that I can read to the choir.

Leslie Martin
Director of Music
St. Stephen's Episcopal Church, Seattle
on July 4, 2004 10:00pm
It is fascinating to see the various approaches presented to this argument. Among those opposing applause, there is a common dichotomy. Applause is condemned because it makes the "performance" about people, not God. A credible point. But many immediately proceed to offer alternative ways to recognize/thank/appreciate the choir, hence making it about people again, suggesting that the problem isn't that appreciation detracts from the the nature of worship, but that applause in church just annoys them. On the other hand, in my gut, I kind of agree with them, so find myself guilty of the same dichotomy.

Intellecutally speaking, arguments on both sides are compelling, and I think there is a good reason why the discussion doesn't seem to lead to a conclusion one way or the other: The *real* questions underlying this may be much broader.

Consider several ideas:

1) "Whenever two or more of you are gathered in his name..." Are we really only worshipping in church? If I attend (as I frequently do) choral concerts in a secular setting, am I then free to applaud because I'm not in the strict ecclesiastical setting of a church service? Am I not still worshipping, celebrating the glory of God, while sitting in a renovated 1920s Vaudeville theater while an angelic rendition of the Recordare from the Mozart Requiem, performed by a secular choir (for example, the American Boy Choir) moves me to tears? It seems to be that neither the setting nor the choir are the determining factor, but whether or not that is a moment of worship for me. That, neither the choirmaster, nor the Pastor, nor the Presbyter, nor the guy next to me can speak to. Just God and I can. Which leads into my next point:

2) Is it really about the choir, or is there possibly a choir-centric view on the part of the people who frequent this website: I believe that when a member of a (pick one: congregation, audience) is sincerely moved to applaud (ignoring those who do it because others are, for the moment) they are not overanalyzing the effects of the applause on the choir. They are simply expressing someting along the lines of "That gave me (pick your own phrase for "good feelings"), thank you." What could be a more Christian sentiment than thanking someone for a gift? It seems to me that the only un-Christian part of that exchange is if the *choir* starts hungering for that applause, in which case, the problem doesn't lie in the applause, it lies in the motivations of the individuals in the choir who are developing narcissistic feelings that may be contrary to worship.

3) The Solemn Ritual: Organized religion has, since it's inception, used repetition and ritual for reinforcement of a variety of things. It is human nature to respond to that. Wal-Mart uses it too, with equal effectiveness. So let's keep that part of the argument separate. Applause in the middle of a service disrupts a solemn, cohesive ritual with a (frequently) invasive non-ecclesiastical interruption. Much in the way you can be engrossed in a movie and have that "suspension of disbelief" totally destroyed if someone opens the outside door for a moment and sunlight streams in. For me, that's a problem (in church AND at a movie.) The ritual of the service *does* help me focus my mind, focus my heart, and help me tune out, briefly, the overwhelming distractions of my life, making a little room in my crowded attic of a mind for my faith to express itself.

4) Christian Values: I personally dislike applause during a service, as many here do. But to be bluntly honest, that's not about God, that's about me. *I* don't like it. As *I* was taught to be a Christian, that's just tough. Suck it up, Jack. Christian charity means making it about others' needs, not your own. If I have achieved the tinies iota of Grace in my life, I should gladly put up with it, and share in the happiness coming from the person next to me who is clapping. Heck, maybe the decent thing to do is to clap too, so my silence doesn't ruin the moment for that person. At least, that's the attitude in life I strive for. I miss the mark a lot, but God knows I try.

So my take on this?

Applauding: Fundamentally a good thing with commendable motivations.
Craving applause: Human weakness. Exactly the kind of thing we strive,
using faith, to overcome in ourselves.
The Applause Itself: Disruptive for me. I must try to accept it instead
of judging it or the person doing it.

If you read this entire missive to the bottom, I applaud you.

on July 22, 2004 10:00pm
Hmmm.... I've read nearly every reply on this string of messages. It seems to me that a lot of folks have confused SINGING and WORSHIP. The two are not synonymous. Yes, in the minds of many people, singing and praising is worship. But it isn't. (gasp) It IS actually possible to worship without ANY music. Exhaltation, exultation, magnification... don't require music. I'm reminded of the modern song " The Heart of Worship"...
I'm coming back
To the heart of worship
And it's all about You
All about You Jesus
I'm sorry Lord
For the thing I've made it
When it's all about You
All about You Jesus
When the music fades
All is stripped away
And I simply come
Longing just to bring
Something that's of worth
That will bless Your heart
I'll bring You more than a song
For a song in itself
Is not what You have required
You search much deeper within
Through the way things appear
You're looking into my heart

OK so if our SINGING leads people TO WORSHIP, then their applause is not for a stunning performance, but for a stirred heart! Music evokes more emotion than any other form of speech (remember singing is actually sustained speech). We use it to "get to people." My response when people applaude isn't "oh they missed the point." My response is "GOTCHA!" The outbreak of spontaneous applause is a joy heart spilling over into their hands. Our society seemingly hasn't found any other way to express joyous emotion other than applause. So let the people applaude; let them have the freedom to express the joy of the moment in any way they know how. Just be sure that YOU, the musician, listen for the applause of heaven. (with apologies to Max Lucado)
on August 18, 2004 10:00pm
Sometimes applause may be loud, other times modest. Should that indicate the success of a given rendition? Ending on a high lour chord will elicit a different response from "God So Loved The World", for instance. Applause does demonstrate an aspect of performance; but is singing in church a performance? I think a quiet well-behaved choir, really getting into a piece of music can be most effective. A song is a drama that should be felt deeply and quietly pondered after the finish. Too often the preacher or other moderator jumps right up and continues the service. A moment of quiet can allow the message to sink in and be absorbed. I have a theory that most church service people have little sense of what I call segue, a smooth move from one thing to another. A jerky service does not lead as it
should. Today's pop culture is exaggerated to call attention to itself.
The choral art is in trouble. I have visited many churches in the last few months to find very perfunctory, sing-along renditions tolerated by congregations. No wonder the cheap contemporary stuff is so accepted. Finally, what is wrong with the music that was contemporary to the early settlers of America? There is too much me & I in the poor poetery of the CCM. Lord, give us a deeper knowledge of music and a deeper understanding of REAL poetry. Sorry!! Applaud sparingly when the preacher does!
on August 23, 2004 10:00pm
We must forget our likes and dislikes and think about God's opinion. Is He pleased when we express our devotion and praise? Yes, of course. So it doesn't matter if I like clapping or if I do not. It doesn't matter if I prefer the "old" hymns, sacred classics, or contemporary praise songs. It doesn't matter if I like traditional organ and piano or sound tracs. The only thing that matters is that God is truly worshiped, adored, and passionately praised during the service. If "false gods" such as Budda, etc. can be worshipped with devoted abandon, why can I not worship the true and living God with all of my heart, soul, mind, and strength in the way He deserves?

Throughout the Psalms we are admonished to Praise Him with loud instruments, with the dance, with clapping, with the voice......has He changed? I think not. It is pleasing to Satan when we refrain from praising and thus cause others to refrain from praising the amazing, beautiful, powerful, just, loving God we serve.
on August 30, 2004 10:00pm
I think that congregants should be given a bit of credit here. Generally I have observed folks in the pews will clap with joy and shout "amen!" on a Sunday, and be more solemn on the appropriate days (such as Maundy Thursday). As for the clapping, who will ever know what they perceive as performance, and what truly reaches their hearts? Only God. We just keep on offering up opportunities for God to work through our music and touch their souls.

Having said that, applause is not the sole determiner of what makes a performance. It is the motivation of the musician. All we can do it strive to make our hearts right as we make that offering. We've got awfully big logs in our own eyes to deal with before we nitpick about the applause specks in other's eyes.
on September 26, 2004 10:00pm
Church should be a quiet peaceful place of rest. Claping loud bousterous music can disrupt the heart.
on January 9, 2005 10:00pm
Tough one. I sing in our choir at Lawrenceville Presbyterian Church, and it seems right to me that we are not applauded, since our singing is part of the service and, as others have noted, not entertainment. After all, we wouldn't applaud a particularly good sermon. But when the kids sing, people applaud, and I like that. As noted, the kids work hard and they deserve a warm response.
on February 12, 2006 10:00pm
I have always been strongly opposed to applause during worship. The fundamental question is to whom is worship directed. The obvious answer is to God, but in this day and age it is clear that worship is all too often now directed to people.

This shift in direction is really a cultural one. Now instead of looking to church as a duty for the faithful to member to offer its oblations, the object of church has become what church can "spiritually" (i.e., as a form of psycho-physical health) do for the human being. This is really the product of the "Me-generation" and the "self-help" gurus of the recent past. Church and its worship now is not a religious endeador, but a "spiritual"-growth excercise. Music is not an offering to God, but an edifying experience. Church volunteer work is not done out of Christian duty, but because it makes you a better person. This theraputic rather than theological approach to reigion (or what is now called spirituality) has allowed worship to become a tantalizing show. What does one do at a show? Applaud.

Now, even in many liturgical churches, we see the performers (adult and children alike) facing the people instead of facing an Altar which depending upon the faith is a metaphorical or actual focal point of God's presence. When choirs sing or when someone does a good deed, applause errupts to congratulate the individual and not to give thanks to God. Evidence of this is clearly seen because the pastor and the volunteer doesn't turn their back to the congregation and face the Altar or some other representation of God's presence corporately adding to the applause. The applause instead is absorbed by the individuals as an affirmation of their worth... vanity at its finest.

I find the lack of theological and liturgical understanding present in our worship very disturbing. I see it both among the clergy and the musicians. It may be found in the the liturgical placement of anthems to the position of the choir facing the congregation in a stage or concert-like setting.

A good pastor and musician know how to inspire devotion through the musical representatives of the church who perform on the behalf of the laity who either don't have the time or the background to perform the more complicated musical offerings during the service. These volunteers need to understand that they are not to expect thanks, but are expected to selflessly give thanks without regards to personal feeling. There is an irony that the joy that people seek so directly through human praise can be achieved much more ably through doing what it right and good without regards to selfish ambition. People all too often look to the church to see what it has to give to you, when the real issue is what you have to give to the church.

So don't applaud in church. Don't inspire selfish vanity. Worship God anonymously as a joyful and selfless duty. The modern concept of "spiritual health" in the psycho-physical sense is not an objective of the church, but can (when it is not your ultimate goal) be a concomitant result of a purposeful life well lived.
on January 23, 2007 10:00pm
Clap your hands all ye people, shout to the Lord with a voice of triumph!!

on April 9, 2007 10:00pm
Clap for the kids! As for the rest, ask yourself: would you clap after someone said a prayer? If so, then clap for the music. If you differentiate between prayer that is spoken and prayer that is sung, I guess you go fot it. But if the song is prayer, it's prayer. As a soloist, my song is prayer. If someone is moved, I always appreciate being told personally. Or, as my minister used to say, you can put your hand over your heart to show your appreciation. Believe me, when I looked out at the congregation after a piece and saw many hands on hearts -- *I* was deeply affected and much more so than any ovation could provide.

Angela
on April 22, 2007 10:00pm
As for Catholic Churches, I would point to a quotation from then Cardinal Ratzinger's (now Pope Benedict XVI) book:

"Wherever applause breaks out in the liturgy because of some human achievement, it is a sure sign that the essence of liturgy has totally disappeared and been replaced by a kind of religious entertainment. Such attraction fades quickly - it cannot compete in the market of leisure pursuits, incorporating as it increasingly does various forms of religious titillation."
The Spirit of the Liturgy, 2000

Pax,
Jon McLear
on April 26, 2007 10:00pm
I am a singer/soloist and I also help direct children's choir.

How small do we think God is?

I strive for perfection in my singing. . .for it is an offering. . both to God and to God's people. It is not the children or me that is being applauded but the effort shown.. .for God. . for the worship of God. . .for touching their hearts. It is not expected but for me when it happens it shows I am doing the job God sent me to do.

Maybe pastors should not be paid. ..does not the acceptance of money profane the sermon. . .would he/she preach if they weren't getting cash?

I tend to view rules that are arbitrary as suspect. WWJD? Dance while the bridegroom is among you.

peace by peace, Dawn:)
on June 18, 2007 10:00pm
I have mixed feeling about the applause in church issue.I am a cradle Episcopalian that has sung in choirs since early childhood. I am a classically trained vocalist and have performed profesionally as well as a volunteer member of my church choir.

I had a discussion with a fellow choir member about the "performance" aspect of leading worship through song, in which she dersively referred to a former Choir Master/Organist as being driven by the "performance" of the music rather than perhaps the place of music in the worship experience.

I took the side that there needed to be these performance skills involved in the offering of our music as our gift to God, for who would want to give less than the best of their talents in praise to Him? I think that it is the job of the individual to come to grips with their own motivations in whether or not they seek applause (approval) from others, or whether it is their purpose to offer praise to God.

It is also a duty of the parents and choir leaders, and the congregation members to instill in children a sense of their self-worth through participation and leading of the worship service. The Preparation of a children's choir is not just about the notes, rhythms and words, but it also entails teaching them their place in the worship as leaders of prayer through song. If applause should happen at the end of their offering, Amen (so be it). Accept it graciously as you do God's blessings.

Solo Dei Gloria
Peigi
on August 29, 2007 10:00pm
Wow, this must be a cultural thing. I can't believe this is even a debatable question. Kudos to all who cracked open their Bibles to the endless Psalm passages about praise and worship exhibited by the clapping of hands. It seems that the "tight fisters" are using the world's standards of what clapping represents instead of what God has called us to do as worshipers. Whether its children or adults singing, the congregation should be right there with them--singing along, clapping along, encouraging them while being encouraged, and rejoicing in the Word going forth in song. I'm reminded of the spiritual lyric, "If I don't praise Him, the rocks are going to cry out. And I don't want no rocks crying out for me."

Why would someone want to join a church where they are berrated for clapping, when their friends out in the world clapping it up at sporting events, concerts, clubs, bars, etc.

Clap you hands, O Ye People!!!

The COGICs, AMEs, AMEZs, NBCs, CMEs, and especially the Charismatics.
on October 5, 2007 10:00pm
That is a tough call. At my church, the pastor prefers no clapping. However, he don
on August 14, 2008 10:00pm
Duty? Oblations? Are you serious?!?!?

When our church was interviewing for a second minister, one of the resume's caught my eye, and gave me a deep, dark feeling of dread in the pit of my stomach when I read the line...

"I took up the burden of ministering ...."

Wait ... what? BURDEN?

That resume was filed in the bluebin, obviously, but the sentiement expressed has stayed with me as a reminder of the twisted view of God's love and mandate for us as His children that many people of my generation have experienced in their brief exposure to the "church experience". So many young people see faith as a burden and sacrifice instead of the wonderful, uplifting and restoring experience that I had while growing up at Dunbarton-Fairport United Church (DFUC).

During my teenage years, as many do, I stopped going to church. I didn't want to have to get up early on the weekends, I didn't feel like sitting around in a crowded room praying, truth is, I didn't think I needed it. Boy was I wrong.

The longer I stayed away, the more I associated with people in the "real world", whose obsession with "success" and material gain consumed me, obliterating all thoughts of God, prayer, or worship. Funny thing, the longer I did this, the worse I felt about who I was, and who I was becoming.

It took a long time, and a lot of tears, but I finally returned to my church like the prodigal son, repentant of my frivolous and self-ruining ways, and like the prodigal son, I was welcomed with open arms and heartfelt love.

I pray for all of you the blessing of knowing what an AWESOME source of spiritual cleansing and renewal it is to have such a wonderful group to participate in worship with, and pray also that you each are so infused with the Holy Spirit that your worship may never seem a burden or a sacrifice to you.

Christ may be Lord, but he has assured us that his "yoke is light, and the load is easy."

on August 14, 2008 10:00pm
A wise young man once preached in the streets, performing miracles for all to behold. He attracted vast crowds who left their former lives to journey with him, hearing him speak and watching him as he healed the sick, cured the lame, and met with all types of people, regardless of propriety.

The local religious leaders were in an uproar. How dare he attract these crowds away from proper worship at the temple? How dare he forgive the sins of the people? How dare he perform these miracles? Tricks for the amusement of peasants, not real wisdom.

The religous leaders harassed the young man. They had him arrested, and eventually killed. His name was Jesus.

...

Often we are so caught up in the debate of what is "proper" at church that our mandate to reach out to others and extend the Peace of Christ goes unfulfilled. Just as the many peoples of different nations were able to "speak with one tongue" after receiving the holy spirit, so too must we seek to set aside our cultural biases, including those of religious propriety, in order to go about God's work, united in faith.

I was blessed to worship as a member of children's, youth, and adult choirs, and was even more blessed when I had the opportunity to express my faith through music under the wonderful direction of a deeply spiritual and blessedly talented musician, who often quoted the following piece of wisdom, "Singing is like praying twice."

Whatever our God-given talents, it is a blessing for us and others when we use those talents to the glorification of God, and we are encouraged in psalm to "praise the lord with the cymbal and lute" and to "raise our voices".

When I find myself stumbling, and concerning myself with what other's "should" or "should not" be doing, I remind myself of the biblical caveat: "Judge not, lest ye be judged", and sternly return my focus to my own relationship with the Lord.



on September 16, 2008 10:00pm
I have sung in Catholic church choirs for almost twenty years, and have heard applause many times, most normally after a prelude or at the end of Mass. I feel that applause should be avoided during the consecration and distribution of the Eucharist, as that is te holiest part of the Mass. Our Music Minister helps by trying to pick music that fits this portion of the Mass. We have had occasions where we had applause after an anthem at Offertory, usually if it is a favorite of the congregation or something that we sang exceptionally well.

While I certainly don't expect applause, it is at times gratifying to see that we touched our congregation in some special way. We all realize however, that applause is not what we are there for. I feel it is important that the music minister and pastor set the tone for an appropriate response from the congregation. However, if the presiding priest routinely accepts applause for special events, such as someone's 50th wedding anniversary or a particularly good sermon, then the door has been opened to applause for the choir too.

In the final analysis, I feel it is OK to applaud under the right circumstances and as long as local tradition allows. I would much rather see the congregation express their appreciation for the music by joining in and enthusiastically singing when they are called to do so. I feel a singing church is the mark of a successful music ministry.
on September 18, 2008 10:00pm
In every church I have served this has been a topic of debate. This topic, like many topics that find themselves in all churches, will be one that is "kicked around" by only those who have the time or desire to concern their thoughts with it. I serve a large, traditional Methodist Church, and one could guess I have numbers of people that find the time to worry about this issue. I want to first say that if I had all powers to decide who claps and when I would choose that they did not but its just a personal preference. Our worship services today are already to "busy" with talking about and recognizing ourselves and less about God. As it relates to worship I feel that we have to have a few MUSTS and the rest is in God's hands. First, is our focus about God or self? Do we do what we do because we desire to know God better? Secondly, are we enthusiastic about our worship? Thirdly, and equally as important, do we come prepared to worship God? Being prepared should be both logistically and spiritaully. If we can answer YES to the above questions then all is well! If someone is moved to clap, let them clap! Be excited that your music moved someone to a better place than when they arrived. I'm not crazy about clapping, but guess what.....it's not about me! If members of a church concern themselves with something as small as a hand clap then something bigger is wrong. Get to a place where you answer YES to the above checklist and enjoy your worship and your musical groups involvement in it!


David Allen
Director of Music
Bethany United Methodist Church
Summerville, SC
on October 6, 2008 10:00pm
Clapping in church... Yep.. We do it.. Call us whatever.. We're Baptists.. ABC (American Baptists)... And we have no qualms about it.. We praise God with our hearts and hands and voices.. The choir may well sing a rousing gospel song or anthem with a 2&4 backbeat/handclap.. the words will always be understood and the message is primary.. We are singing to God and to minister to the congregation.. The congregation usually claps their hands in praise and appreciation following the music, and often following (even during) the sermon. We use P&W music as well as the hymnal.. We have an ethnic mix of folk, so we have a lot of tradition to choose from.. I've been at the church seven years now.. I'm proud that the choir is a dedicated group of volunteers who consistently produce a quality ministry that pleases the congregants and ministers to their needs.. We sing what our congregation likes and leave the high-church stuff to St Thomas, St Pat's, St John's et al.. There's a place at God's table for everybody..

Bill Robinson
Musician/Choir Director
Greenwood Baptist Church
Brooklyn, NY

on November 9, 2008 10:00pm
I did not know this was such a controversial matter. See CLAPPING: ANOTHER ACT OF WORSHIP in www.scripturessa.com. A good study.
on November 10, 2008 10:00pm
This is an apology. Yesterday I submitted a message, but in referencing a study, misspelled the name of the website. It should have been spelled: www.ScripturesSay.com. I wrote this after preaching, teaching and writing as a member of the church of Christ for 68 years, where I had never seen clapping as an act of worship until the last few years where there have been men coming in among us with changes "contrary to the doctrine of Christ," whom we are told to mark and keep away from because they cause divisions in the church (Romans 16:17). I have recently seen faithful members leaving the assembly weeping and saying, "I just can't stand all this clapping in the worship." I have pleaded with our elders to stop the practice so we can once again be united in worshiping God "in spirit and in truth" (John 4:24). In our city of Fort Worth (where we have about 100 congregations) only ours and one or two others are known to allow clapping as an act of worship.

I urge every Christian to download this study from the website cited and give it serious study. A warning "for our learning" (Rom 15:4) is given in Leviticus 10:1-7 about two men whom God struck dead because they presumed to worship in a way which He had "NOT COMMANDED."

Thank you and God bless you.

Alvin Jennings