Wednesday, March 25, 2009

clap a joyful clap

I've always found clapping in church to be a bit awkward. Perhaps it's because of my church background. I grew up in a church that began incorporating worship songs with the hymns around my junior year of high school. We didn't necessarily sing current worship songs, but we moved away from singing only hymns. My church was known for not clapping . . . but sometimes, when you're in the middle of "My Life Is In You, Lord," you just feel like clapping. I believe my aunt often initiated the clapping, and others (not the whole congregation, mind you, but a few others) would join in . . . and eventually the clapping would die out. I always felt incredibly strange when I would clap, and that feeling has followed me into adulthood.

I rarely clap in church--not because I think it's wrong but because I don't know how to do it. The rhythm is never the problem (for me--I'd say the rhythm is the problem for many, many would-be clappers); rather, I never know when to stop clapping. I'm constantly watching the others around me to see when they start and stop. Should I clap for the whole song or just the first verse? When the worship leader tells me to clap, I usually do (because I'm a lemming?) . . . but how long do I need to keep clapping after he stops--because worship leaders usually stop clapping shortly after they get the audience started!

We had a worship band from Grace University in chapel today. And inevitably, a song came along where they wanted us to clap. Not wanting to stand out (I was on the bottom row of the bleachers), I began clapping. I soon stopped. Then I started watching the people around me and noticed that many of them seemed quite tentative about clapping, too. Imagine my delight when, while getting my daily blog fix at lunch, I saw the title of today's post on Stuff Christians Like: Clapping our hands (a step-by-step guide to the death of rhythm)!

You have to read this post! It's genius! Here's an excerpt to get you hooked--then go read the rest of it!
I always cringe a little when a worship leader says, "Everybody clap together" at the beginning of a song.

Instead of marching forward in a united rhythm, what usually happens in church sounds like someone lit off a box of hand firecrackers. Smacks and slaps and claps just ringing out randomly with no sense of where the song is headed. So this morning, after witnessing several claps die merciless deaths yesterday at church, I thought I would analysis how the clap goes so wrong so quickly. Here is what I think happens, laid out in a convenient step by step approach:

1. We get the "call to arms."
This is when the worship leader tells everyone in the crowd to start clapping. Often, he or she, will raise their hands above their head to give you a visual of how the whole thing is supposed to go down. It's an exciting moment, the world is so fresh and new. We're all a little intoxicated on the sense of potential and possibility. So together, we start clapping.

2. We realize that there's no leader.
Eventually, the worship leader stops clapping above their head. Either they start playing an instrument or just grab their microphone in kind of a dramatic, Creed-like moment. Suddenly, we in the crowd realize no one is leading this clap-a-thon. We scan the stage for direction but no one bails us out. The main singer is focused on the song and the back up singers are doing some sort of rhythmic clapping that is beyond us. It's like the PhD program of clapping. At least 15% of people quit clapping right here.
OK. Now that you've had a taste, go here to read the rest.


  1. Okay, so you recall my mom as the one who started most of the clapping? BA-haha!!! I'm sure you're probably right. And I can totally see her doing it too. But the fact that you associate her with the initiation of the clapping at CBC is... well, it's hilarious. And she's just so determined about the whole thing, too. :D

  2. As I was typing this, I knew it was possible I was wrong--but the image of Aunty M singing and clapping is so ingrained in my memory that I'm sure it can't be completely wrong! If she wasn't the instigator, she certainly heartily joined in. But really, who else would have started it? Perhaps she or your father will chime in soon and confirm or deny it :-)

  3. Hilarious! Yesterday in chapel WAS a bit awkward, but enjoyable, just the same.

  4. GREAT post!! I'm usually the one left clapping when 99% of the others have stopped for whichever reason. Awkward...

    Great link too! Anything I have read on that site is hilarious!!

    My fave from yours: "because I'm a lemming?"

    My fave from his: "but suddenly it's quiet and we're the one guy banging away on our hands while you whisper, 'the blood of Jesus.'"


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...