On October 6th, and 13th, our parishioners were invited to participate in a survey regarding the Exchange of the Peace conducted by Colleen Butterley and Elaine Renforth. We would like to share those results with you.
Firstly, 68% of the average congregation attendance responded to the survey. Comments ranged from “Stay the same, because we talk to each other and get to know them”, and “Love it as it is”; to the other end of the spectrum saying, “Right now it gives the impression of kids being let out for recess”; “Spoils the quiet contemplation of worship, takes a bit to settle down, should be some kind of dignity”. Some people also focused on the lack of education of what the Peace actually represents.
For Question #1 (“Would you say that on an average Sunday the Peace is chaotic?”):
37% said NO and 51% said YES with 10% having no opinion either way leaving a 14% difference, not too huge of a difference.
In Question #2 (“Would you say that there is too much noise during the Peace?”):
46% of respondents said NO and 44% said YES with 10% having no opinion either way. That is only a 2% difference.
In Question #5 (“Would you say some changes should be made to the Exchange of the Peace?”):
44% said NO change was needed, and 51% wanted some change with 5% having no opinion either way. This made a 7% difference between the two.
Therefore, with these three questions the response is showing that the congregation is almost equally divided in their opinions, clearly stating we are split right down the middle.
This leaves us with the last two questions numbers 3, and 4.
In Question #3 (which states, “Would you say it takes too much time to do the Peace?”), 34% said NO and 56% said YES with 10% having no opinion; therefore 22% more people felt that the Peace was too long.
In Question #4 (which states “Would you say that there are too many conversations going on during the Peace?”), the exact same percentages occurred with 34% saying there were not too many side conversations going on during the Peace and 56% saying that there were too many side conversations going on during the Peace with 10% having no opinion either way again a 22% difference.
This difference is where some change may be warranted. It is clear from our survey that St. Stephens, like many other churches, is on the fence as to whether changes should be made to the Exchange of the Peace; however, our data did show that with some slight changes, simple tweaks really, the Peace could retain much of what people like about it, i.e. the personal connectedness with others especially with the young children, but still improve the decorum and efficiency of this honoured Anglican tradition.
Our analysis of this data brings us to recommend to the Clergy, Parish Council, and the Congregation of St. Stephen’s to implement these two simple steps which we feel will improve the Exchange of the Peace:
Firstly, some survey comments were made with the lack of education regarding the significance of the Peace. It was suggested that the congregation be educated (see below) about why we do the Peace and why it is done at that particular time in the service, etc. By doing this, our hope is that the Peace will be more meaningful to the parishioners; and therefore conducted in a more reverent way.
Secondly, a recent filming of the Peace showed that it took four and a half minutes to complete. This was an unremarkable Sunday of our usual congregational numbers; and therefore, we suggest that after no more than two minutes, the Clergy announce the number of the Offertory Hymn, at which time the Organist will immediately begin to play signalling the end of the Peace.
It also occurred to us that Parishioners could be instructed to stay in their pews and only share the Peace with those in their immediate surroundings; however, we decided not to put this in as a recommendation as we did not feel that parishioners would approve of this change and thus not comply.
Here is some information about how and why we share the Peace:
In the October 2013 issue of the Topic, an article was written by Rev. Michael Fuller in which he describes the tradition of exchanging the Peace as giving “concrete expression of our sincere desire to love our neighbour. How could we hate our neighbour if we are wishing them divine peace? And so, this exchange of Peace becomes a beautiful expression of supernatural love for one another which opens our hearts to receive more worthily and fruitfully the grace of God. It is a fitting preparation for our approach to the Altar and to Holy Communion. So we are not supposed to approach the Altar unless we are living in basic charity with our neighbour in and out of the Church. If we are holding something against or refusing reconciliation with another person, it’s as if we are doing the same thing towards God himself, that person’s Creator and Redeemer. So it would be a contradiction to come to receive Holy Communion while at the same time refusing to work for reconciliation and union with our neighbours. The correct procedure is to exchange the Peace by shaking hands with those who are worshipping with you. The only greeting necessary is, “Peace be with you” or “The peace of the Lord.””
For the full article see the October 2013 issue of The Topic, page 15 or on the Diocesan website at http://www.vancouver.anglican.ca