Because Christ Church of Atlanta is unable to use the space they rent for other fellowship time, their Peace time lasts anywhere from five to ten minutes and gives an extended opportunity for parishioners to connect with one another.
To those who are accustomed to a typical passing of the Peace during Sunday liturgy: get ready to chat a little longer, leave your pew, and receive a lot of hugs when you’re at Christ Church.
“You almost need to ring a bell or have some guy whistle to get everybody to calm down and go back to their seat. It’s like a little mini party every Sunday… It’s just delightful. I love it,” says Christ Church parishioner Marian Nolan.
“[Father Alfred] tries to call law and order back, and quite frankly he has a hard time getting us to sit down and be quiet. He’s been known in the past to pull out his iPhone and play an air raid siren through the PA system,” says parishioner Dr. Currell Berry.
Before coming to Christ Church, a more abbreviated passing of the Peace is the only kind many folks had experienced.
“That’s all we’ve ever seen in any other church. You turn around and shake hands with the people behind you, in front of you, beside you, and then you sit down. Basically, you know nothing about those people, and you didn’t even really pass the Peace,” says Currell. “Passing the Peace is one of those things that is critical for a Christian because we are commanded to forgive. It’s just a marvelous and wonderful time of sharing and fellowship that happens right there in the middle of the service.”
“The first time I went to Christ Church I thought, what is this?” says Marian. “It’s like family. You haven’t seen your family for a week and you want to touch them, you want to love them, and you stop and you pray for them right then and there. It’s the body of Christ nourishing itself.”
“Because we do this all the time, we know about the lives of other people and we catch up with people. The goal is to produce disciples of Christ, and this is one way that our church is relatively close,” says Currell.
And Marian says visitors notice the difference right away.
“That’s the first thing they say: ‘We cannot believe how friendly this church is.’ And I think it’s because it’s not that cold, impersonal passing of the Peace.”
Currell’s wife, Margot, says a longer Peace time allows for the Holy Spirit to work as people fellowship. In one case, she passed the Peace with a woman whom she felt she should ask to take over the church’s hospitality ministry.
“It was such a blossoming of what we are supposed to be about – the Holy Spirit just prompted me, and I did it at the Peace, and this woman has been such an incredible blessing to our church,” says Margot.
She also reflects on how an extended Peace benefits children when adults reach out to ask them about their week or school.
“Children want to feel included… they want to have conversations, they want to feel a part of a community,” says Margot.
And as church members age, Currell points out how church relationships become exponentially more important: “We have a lady who is over 100 years old, and she is very popular at our church and she thrives on it. And we have a whole lot of people in their 80s and 90s. I think the passing of the Peace, and that Christian fellowship, is critically important to them.”
Marian says the love Christ Church members have for each other is undeniably shown during their long passing of the Peace.
“Come to our church and see for yourself,” says Marian. “You might not ever leave!”