Together with the reconciliation that Jesus facilitated through the cross the peace is integral to the preparation for the Eucharist. The root of the peace is firmly embedded in scripture and not merely some modern idea that has 'caught on'.
A simple handshake to accompany the words 'peace be with you' is the most usual and acceptable way of exchanging the peace. (Spouses, family members etc. often offer more intimate gestures) but most are comfortable with a handshake.
What is important though is that eye contact is made and that distractions like using the exchange to pass on information and messages is resisted.
There is the tendency in some churches to prolong the exchanges to the point where there is almost a half-time intermission in the service and yes, that does interrupt the flow of the liturgy.
Human touch is something precious and the warmth of the touch conveys something deeper and more meaningful.
We can all misread peoples' needs and given that there is such a broad practice even within congregations it is unsurprising that mixed messages and confusion can happen and people feel uncomfortable or even threatened.
Those who do not wish to participate should be respected and feel able to withdraw gracefully.
The value of the peace comes from bringing it into conscious awareness so that we can be better informed and equipped to accept each other rather than be distracted and frustrated by its practice." In turn this helps deepen our relationship with God. Peace be with you all.
Exchanging the peace by Rev Dilys
We are already a month into the New Year and good wishes of peace, joy and happiness for each other, our families, friends and communities have been readily exchanged.
'Sharing or exchanging the peace' is also an integral ritual of the Common Worship liturgy and for some traditionalists can be an unwelcome intrusion. I can well remember, when sharing the peace was first introduced many years ago, how some people were enthusiastic to engage with the practice and others very definitely were not.
In the church where I was at the time, there were certain places in the pews where a froideur could be felt and the accompanying body language clearly indicated non-participation.
We've moved on, hopefully, since those early days but nevertheless I know some still dislike the interruption to the flow of the service and find the personal contact unwelcome. We have probably all recoiled from the unwelcome bear hug!
The holy handshake needs a little explanation. There are three ways of looking at the peace: where did it originate, the different ways of doing it; and how people feel about it.
Firstly, there are several Biblical passages to explain the origin for the peace - Romans 16:16 is Paul's injunction to greet one another with a holy kiss (remembering of course that the culture and or ethnicity of the time would have quite naturally included greeting with a kiss).
John 14:27 has the command to model the peace of Christ to one another and Matthew 5: 23-24 urges reconciliation before offering our gift at the altar.