Week 60: "What’s wrong with showing our appreciation for musicians? It feels unnatural to stifle applause after a wonderful solo."

Response 1: Todd Herzer

In the church service, the solo is traditionally viewed as an opportunity for quiet reflection setting the stage for the upcoming Lesson-Sermon. For many, an applause following the solo might be an unwanted distraction.

However, the role of music in worship services is evolving significantly and becoming more contemporized to reflect the changing values of society. I have often visited a non-denominational community church that featured a small rock band playing contemporary Christian music. It was highly engaging for all ages. Fellow congregants sang along and clapped their hands, which seemed no less sacred to me than sitting in quiet reflection while listening to a traditional solo in a Christian Science church.

Several years ago the solo performed at our Thanksgiving service was extraordinarily moving, so much so that a young child began clapping. Soon the entire congregation joined with the child. We would later learn that a few members were disturbed by the incident. Interestingly, what followed was a series of deep discussions about the nature of the church service and the willingness to peel back layers of tradition to find more relevant ways to present our services.

Having been a branch church member for all of my adult life, spending many years sitting in services steeped in seemingly rigid tradition, I have found it refreshing to share ideas with fellow church members in examining new ways to present our services while staying consistent with our Manual provisions.

Your desire to express appreciation for the solo is commendable. If clapping after the solo is not consistent with your church’s current atmosphere it no doubt caught some people off guard. And it’s unfortunate that you were chastised for expressing your appreciation in that manner. You might consider creating an opportunity to open up conversations with the members about the role of music and how best to express appreciation.

I’ve attended Christian Science services where clapping after the solo is the norm. I know of some more traditional branch churches where clapping occurs spontaneously after a particularly moving solo. And yet, in my current branch church applauding after a solo never occurs. Are any of these churches doing something right or wrong? No, they are merely enjoying the Manual provision to be “distinctly democratic in its government” (Manual of the Mother Church, Article XXIII, Sect 10). So feel free to engage in participatory democracy and open up discussion with your fellow church members.

Response 2: Lois Herr

In our society today, we see accolades heaped on the superstar, whether in pop culture, business or sports. Perhaps that is one reason why Jeremy Lin, the New York Knicks basketball player has come as such a delightful and welcome change. Though a man of great talent, rather than hogging the ball for himself, he has spotted and skillfully passed the ball to open players, making everyone around him better.

For me, the presentation of a church service is a team effort. All the players, from the ushers to the readers, musicians and praying congregation, are integral to the service. So perhaps applauding the solist, as well done and inspiring as his/her singing was, unnecessarily singles out one of the team members.

It was such a courageous step that Mrs. Eddy took to halt the preaching of individual sermons tinged with personal opinions, and ordain the Bible and Science and Health as the Pastors of her church. The unique nature of our services, open wide the door to the healing Christ and turn us away from, among other things, personality. Just as a good Reader works to have us really hear the message and not a personality, surely the soloist takes that viewpoint as well. I’ve often been struck by this quote: “Remember it is personality, and the sense of personality in God or in man, that limits man” (Miscellaneous Writings 1883-1896, p. 282)

Maybe this answer gives some insights into another point of view.

But perhaps we are not given license to judge someone by whether or not we applaud after the solo. We need to recognize we have the ability to love our church family enough to give one another a little space to maneuver without either hurt or self-righteousness within this question. For me, this spirit of love is captured in this snatch of Hymn No. 170 that speaks volumes about personal choices. In the hymn, the choices are not at all about clapping, but about how we celebrate Christmas, which can also be full of personal opinions.

Keep while ye need it, brothers mine,
With honest zeal your Christmas sign,
But judge not him who every morn
Feels in his heart the Lord Christ born.

This spirit of being non-judgmental, as well as thoughtful of others, helps to turn our churches into safe places where we can appreciate one another, where we can grow, and where we can love and feel loved.

  1. I appreciate all the ideas expressed here. I remember back in the 80's my daughter then a teenager could hardly resist clapping after a solo in The Mother Church. It hadn't been done at that time that I know of, and she didn't actually clap out loud. What I remember most is appreciating her joy in the solo.

    I don't feel the need to clap for a wonderful solo. Isn't it imbibing the spirit and living out the inspiration that really matters?

    I love the thought "We need to recognize we have the ability to love our church family enough to give one another a little space to maneuver without either hurt or self-righteousness...."

  2. I have noticed these past few weeks that some of the "Questions" on this site have concerned some small points of church "etiquette" or "protocol": the proper deportment before the service begins, the length of the silent prqyer, etc. It seems that we have exhausted all of the major "Questions" last year. I must say that I did find last year's "Questions" more significant and interesting.

    That being said, let me address this weeks's "Question". I think that each person should be free to clap or not depending on his/her reaction to the solo. To think that there should be a rule to govern this sort of thing is ridiculous. I know that I would applaud if I felt particularly moved by the solo.

    I remember, a number of years ago, on an Easter Sunday, I listened to the service (on the Internet) from the Mother Church. The solo was Mozart's "Alleulia" and the soloist really "took the roof off". The piece was beautifully sung and there was a great deal of applause. Really, I felt like applauding, and here I was, sitting at home. I can't remember the name of the soloist. (It was several years before Julia Wade began. She is also excellent!)

    The music, because of the somewhat "subdued" and "static" nature of the rest of the CS service, is about the only place where there can be some degree of spontaneity and flexibility.

  3. I have always considered the solo to be an offering to God, like prayer, and for that reason it has seemed odd to me to hear applause when the solo is over...like it would be odd to applaud after the Lord's Prayer, or the Scriptural Selection, even if they particularly moved me on a given Sunday.

  4. I've enjoyed this discussion and would like to add these thoughts. Would one be moved to applaud a reader or the readers if they read a passage especially well? Or if the passage read really "hit home" to the listener? The lesson is the "meat" of the service and the ushers before and after the service, the hymns, music provided before and after the service and the solo are all a part making up the whole of the message for that Sunday. What a wonderful thinking and healing service is being provided for us. However, if a child or someone put their hands together in appreciation for any of these parts, what a joy they must be feeling and they and everyone must be blessed!

  5. When someone says something to you and you smile, its not a question of behavior, its a natural spontaneous result. So applause on a solo that moves you would be natural, its hard to sit and suppress joyous feelings. So maybe only a few of the congregation might feel applause, that's ok. If the applause is intended as a custom, a thank you and acknowledgement for a good performance, then there should be no applause, reflecting on the music and words is enough, the best part of the service is just beginning!

  6. The first Christian Science service I attended was all new to me and somewhat ‘uncomfortable.’ The service was truly not like any other church service I had ever been to. I asked this very question and I am still grateful for the loving explanation given by a long time member of the Christian Science church as to the ‘Science’ behind the way the service was conducted. I was the new person and certainly would never presume to question or judge the way an established denomination conducted its own church service. How could it be static or too traditional for someone new? I would never want the responsibility of my questions about the way a service was conducted to motivate members to think that their service was not good enough or too traditional. I am the one who wanted what Christian Science has to offer and I thank God and it was there for me. Every service is an opportunity to ‘be still’ and learn to quiet the urge to humanly see any lack or ‘problem'. I am honored to be able to attend such a well thought out hour and am grateful for the wisdom of right traditions.
    I became a member after an incredible healing and this question came up in a membership meeting. As we listened to each other some very useful and inspiring dialog helped us come to a harmonious decision. Any change to established church protocol, if ‘beginning rightly’ (that is; knowing where all causation comes from) should be a harmonious and clear undertaking.
    Our soloist knew the tradition and as I got to know her she told me that both she, and our organ player, preferred there be no clapping, because she didn’t see how a congregation could clap for her when it did not clap for the readers, the ushers and the organ prelude and postlude. They are both very secure in the love and support they feel from the members and do not need to be applauded to know they are appreciated.
    One of the churches I grew up attending had beautiful choir renditions and no one ever clapped and the choir knew it wasn’t going to happen; they were serving their church in their own way.
    Our membership agreed to not clap but to make sure that our soloist and organist always knew that their beautiful gifts to our CS church service are appreciated as each member is led. This attitude extends to every gift of service from every member; helps fulfill the command to ‘love one another’. Thhis answer to a good question can easily be imparted to any newer student of Christian Science or visitor to a Christian Science church service.

  7. In appreciation and gratitude for a beautiful solo, recemtly I quietly stood up for a few moments, as though for a standing ovation. There were no negative comments, only a few of approval. The soloist was genuinely appreciative.

  8. The image of a child spontaneously clapping for the solo is so sweet and natural. I can't imagine that anything so innocent could be a distraction.

  9. As soloist in many different churches over the years, I have never had anyone applaude out loud, but many times congregants have signalled by silent clapping their enthusiasm for the solo. I have seen people healed during the solo as well, and appreciate their acknowledgement after service, but truly it is not about me, my voice, my interpretation: it is the Christ that has effected the healing. It would be embarrassing to receive applause in church during a service for this reason. I surely love hearing comments afterward, but still I keep in mind that it is God and His Christ that worked in me to do the deed.

  10. Just this past Sunday we had a Sunday School pupil as our substitute soloist. Applause was spontaneous and felt so appropriate. Afterwards several commented how wonderful and natural it was to share our appreciation in just this way. Loved it!

  11. Our branch church uses recorded music for all parts of the service and no one applauds or thanks the person who runs the CD player. But we have attended branches where the First Reader thanks the soloist each Sunday at the conclusion of the solo, whether the singer is a long-time member or a last-minute replacement. It seems natural and loving to show appreciation on behalf of the congregation, just as we might thank the First Reader after the service for a particularly inspiring scriptural selection or thank either Reader for new insight received during the service.

  12. Even young infants who don't yet talk, spontaneously clap their hands when they feel joy and happiness. One of the things that makes many Christian Science churches feel so stilted is the stifling of natural expressions of gratitude and appreciation.

    I'm now a member of a church where applause is freely given, as is laughter (heaven forbid, this is a Christian Science church service). Never have I felt so loved, welcomed, and appreciated in church. It encourages me to want to participate in many different aspects of church membership.

  13. Two occasions occur to me on this issue: several years ago in our branch church there was a problem with the organ (I don't know what it may have been) and the soloist stood up and performed a capella, flawlessly, and was applauded, unanimously; now, after our services are over, our organist plays a fairly extended postlude and several in the congregation remain in their seats, applauding him after he has finished. Different occasions, but appropriate reactions (I think).

  14. This is an interesting question, and I have enjoyed reading the comments so far. I can see everyone's points of view. However,
    I feel that if one is really filled with joy and lifted up by a solo, and feels the need to applaud as a spontaneous gesture, stifling this would not seem to be a good thing to do. After all, to my thinking, the applause is not really for the soloist, but is for the spiritual effect it has given. The soloist's reward after having spent time practicing the piece in order to convey the healing message, is in feeling this spiritual uplift herself or himself during the solo. The applause is really for the benefit of the person doing it - to express the joy that has been unleashed in him or her.

    During services in some other denominations I believe people may stand up and shout "Hallelujah" or some such expression spontaneously. We can seem to be extremely conservative because certain traditions about church hold us in check. The CS Church seems to be trying to break out of "the box", and is succeeding in so many ways, and we need to be feeling much freer in expressing spiritual qualities where and when appropriate.

    If there is a particularly uplifting postlude by someone who has put lots of practice into it to keep thoughts uplifted to praising God at the end of the service, I think spontaneous applause if felt by anyone would not be out of place. It is wonderful to be able to go away from our Services having felt appreciation for everyone involved, and sharing the joys with each other, and taking out this spiritual sense of joy into our lives.

    I don't think, however, that applause should just become something that is done regardless of feeling the spirit moving us - it should be something we cannot help doing. The spiritual uplift after the solo takes us into the Lesson Sermon, and we are then ready to really appreciate the messages from the Readers who have put so much into their study and readings for our benefit.

    I think this is something for each individual to decide upon, and that we shouldn't interfere with someone else's need to demonstrate their appreciation.

    These are just my thoughts at present, and I shall look forward to reading further thoughts on this topic.

  15. When church members around the world stop "chastising" one another it will be a great day! Let's be kind, whatever happens.

    In our church the service is pretty informal, and we occasionally applaud our organist after a particularly inspiring postlude. No-one has ever applauded the solo, but there are always people going up to the soloist at the end of the service to express their appreciation.

  16. I just re-read the question, and I guess it has as much to do with feeling chastised as it does with applause. I will add, then, that I have never felt judgmental towards someone who felt moved to clap, and we don't have a particular policy about it in our branch church. I think loving our congregants and healing criticism is highly important! It's just my individual sense of the solo that it is not so much a performance as it is an offering.

  17. Good discussion. More food for thought. If someone goes into a room and lights a cigarette, everyone gets the smoke. The atmosphere has totally changed. Applause in a church service affects folks the same way, because everyone hears and reacts to the applause, pro or con, and the solo and its purpose and place in the service is no longer the focus. We can convey our thanks to all those who contribute to our Sunday service without affecting our jointly shared "room".

  18. Even at classical music concerts the conductor will often inform the audience not to clap after each section but wait until the end of the whole piece in order to preserve the mood and integrity of the music. Clapping during a CS service to me could very well imply (intended or not) that one is grateful for the "performance." I don't think it would be good for musicians or Readers to begin thinking of their contributions as a performance that is applauded or not according to whether a member or members of the congregation have gotten something special from it (even though their contributions may well merit a thank-you afterward).

  19. The music is an integral part of our service and full of love and healing as all have said. The solo

  20. I don't understand why not applauding is "withholding appreciation."

  21. As a soloist in branch churches for almost 20 years, who has also subbed at The Mother Church several times, I can say that there are times when applause seems perfectly natural, and other times when it does not. When I've finished a particularly prayerful piece, I'd rather the quiet atmosphere not be broken by applause. But raucous praise can also bring healing - uplifting and praise-worthy music and clapping can lift our hearts and thoughts up as well. There have been a number of occasions when the congregation, either at The Mother Church or in my branch, has clapped, and I don't feel embarrassed - I feel their desire to participate in praising God! The first time I experienced clapping in church was at Annual Meeting 2002 in Boston - the solo was SO uplifting, we all jumped to our feet, cheering and clapping - we had to express our own enthusiasm and send it Godward! I don't think there should be a "rule", but case-by-case consideration for what the message of the solo is intending, and respect for the delivery as either quiet or exuberant. I never feel neglected without applause, or personally responsible when there is applause.

  22. Our church is blessed to have two soloists who alternate weeks. When their solo is so appreciated that it looks like the congregation wants to clap, as the First Reader, I simply say 'go ahead'. We never make a big deal of it tho. A nice gentle applause to show our appreciation for a few quick moments, I pause and we move on to the Lesson. On other occasions I thank the musicians, pause and move on. Not showmanship, but appreciating the time to select the appropriate music and words, their time to practice individually and collectively. These are important elements of the servivce.

  23. Perhaps this question points to another question, what is governing my thinking, personal sense or spiritual sense. Do I think about persons doing something or do I see Soul being expressed in wonderful individual qualities that are reflected in joy and gratitude ... perhaps silently within or ... perhaps spontaneously in clapping hands ... in praise to God and His Love being manifested ... ... or perhaps in ...

  24. I am surprised no one mentioned this. I have often seen members approach the soloist after the service has ended and thank her/him enthustically for the solo. This neither disturbs the "tradition" nor the congregation and the message is delivered harmoniously and with appreciation to the soloist.

  25. I am currently serving as First Reader and I have, on limited occasions, very briefly thanked both the organist and soloist by their first names immediately following the solo. They know they are appreciated and the attendees now know their names and can thank them personally following the service if so moved.

  26. I can see how you might want to spontaneously applaud after a solo that has a big powerful ending, but really the solo is a ministry just as much as the reading. As a longtime soloist, I never felt unacknowledged because there was no applause. And many times, those in the congregation would express their appreciation to me after the service.

    Many solos are more meditative, some are upbeat, but if applause happens once or twice, then what does it mean if there is NO applause? Does that indicate that you didn't like the solo? Of course not, so therefore I would err on the side of not applauding period----except when it really IS spontaneous and everyone just can't help it! :-)

  27. We discussed this as a church a few years ago. If a soloist was applauded for a nice effort one week, but not another, did that send a mixed signal to the soloist as possible "not approving" of that week. We decided to have the first reader give a thanks to our musicians for their "contribution" to the service. The wording of that can be done differently each week. It showed approval, but did not "disrupt," "startle" or confuse anyone.

  28. It is all Good. Working out from that perfect cause ALL GOOD, I think that God would not mind applause or non-applause, neither should we.It seems to be much ado about nothing here and it perpahs one of the things that people really find diminutive in this church. As one person here put it, case by case the applause reigns...it shoudl be our good wish , which if done with good intention, should neither spark all of this comment, but only welcome individula thinkers, and not criticize unduley the love which both the applause, and the silence give. If indeed we re t" Love our Neighbor as ourselves." And if indeed we follow the Great Commandement to " have no other God's before me, can we really y see God caring at all about this petty misdemeanor; and furthermore can we not march into Zion either applauding with our hands our applauding with our hearts? What indeed is the difference except sound? The motive is what matters is it not? Love seems to be in the center here on all comments.

  29. I appreciate hearing the warm thank-yous offered by the first reader at the Mother Church after the solo as well as the introductions of the musicians prior to the solo. There are occasions—and I heard one in recent months at the Mother Church—when silence after the solo was hardly an option. It was full of joy and truly exciting and inspiring. The congregation let their appreciation be known, and rightly so. It seems to me that Christian Science services should be—simultaneously—warm welcoming, spontaneous, joyous and natural. That includes all aspects of the service—the reading, the music, the announcements. If laughter, applause, etc. come spontaneously from the heart, let us rejoice in that.

  30. Thank you very much Brenda and Lee you just have said what was in my thought while reading the comments. I was thinking too that if it is a decision of the church members to clap after the solo then be it, but it has to be consistent and that would be every after each solo. In branch churches in other countries where local members are appointed as the soloists [especially in countries where it is not a trend to hire non-member professional soloists and where there is none] if one is applauded and the other is not or the applauding is inconsistent the clapping would be unfavorable.

  31. Having been a soloist for several decades in the past, I have never been applauded nor did I ever wish to be. The soloist does not stand on the church platform to PERFORM but to IMPART. The solo is chosen to coincide with the contents of the lesson sermon and subject matter and as such announces and delivers a message, sets the musical tone, in anticipation of the healing readings which follow immediately after it.It is delivered with God given musicality and blesses all, including the soloist. The appreciation is always evidenced and genuinely expressed after the service and no other applause is needed!
    Currently in our services the First or Second Reader expresses thanks to the soloist AND accompanist on behalf of all for their rendition.
    I would like to state here that the hymns chosen for our services reflect the subject matter and readings also and are a perfect vehicle for ALL to be most enthusiastic soloists or part singers,if so desired!
    Like some other commentators I personally feel that our entire services are on the whole of a peaceful, contemplative nature, of silent,individual communion with God,"undivorced from truth, uncontaminated by human hypotheses and divinely auththorised" And what a blessing they are!!

  32. Granted there shoud be a certain solemnity at our services - but we go there with gratitude in our hearts - expressing it for the music and for sometimes hearing voices coming from the S.S. does not take away that gratitude. Have been in S.S.and attended services since the 1920's and am most greatful for every expression of gratitude.

  33. Life is lively and clapping after a wonderful expression of a joyful noise is a demonstration of appreciation and joy. There is no way that this can be a bad thing.

  34. We come to our services with joy and gratitude. In my case have been attending S.S. and services since the 1920's'. That gratitude continues to grow as we listen to a solo or hear voices coming from our S.S. It is perfect joy expressed giving LOVE to our services.

  35. I have read all of the above comments with interest. I especially agree with Merri (#28) when she said that to her it seems like "much ado about nothing". The majority opinion so far in this discussion seems to be that whether or not to applaud after the solo or postlude is a case by case matter, and that there should be no hard and fast rule, one way or the other. I totally agree.

    Certainly there must be more important points about the CS service which should be discussed here on this blog site. I can't believe that the "This Week's Question" series can't find more interesting or significant topics to discuss, or, as I said in my previous comment (see #2), perhaps all of the really interesting and important topics have already been discussed over the past year. What do you think?

  36. In our branch church, the First Reader often says "thank you both" audibly to the soloist and the organist or pianist immediately after the solo. The only applause we occasionally hear is after a particularly stirring postlude from the organ. (When organist, I especially appreciate having people remain in the congregation for the postlude -- after all, it is part of the service! -- and I certainly don't mind occasional applause when people have enjoyed the music.)

  37. This is an important topic, especially if you are the one being chastised or the one who is having trouble overcoming the feeling of being disturbed by applause after a solo. It seems to be these small things that put big divisions in our congregations if not handled prayerfully. That said, as a soloist, if I were applauded, it would tend to make me feel that my "performance" was good that week. I sing to glorify God and set a healing atmosphere for the lesson to follow. I don't consider what I do, a "performance", and if someone gets a lot out of the solo, they usually come up afterward and let me know of their appriciation.

  38. The important point in this question is "being chastised." To clap or not to clap - is way less important than the question: "to chastise or not to chastise". I think we would all agree - "not".

  39. There is a fine line between what can be rightly recognized as spiritual sense of joy and gratitude, versus emotionalism, which has nothing to do with spirituality or spiritual sense, but can be very easily confused.
    The solo is not a performance. I totally agree with those who stated that in their comments. There are many churches, singing, clapping, and even dancing during their services. They all seem very happy, enthusiastic and lively. There are many Christian churches that practice healing by the imposition of hands, and people get histerical, and cry and speak in lanaguages and so on, and they refer to those experiences as spiritual experiences. Many of these churches are very well attended; they have far more members than any of our branch churches. They are humanly appealing, and they do express great deal of emotions.
    I would never compare Christian Science to any of them, however, neither would I ever recommend any of those practices in a Christian Science service.
    Yes, we do have traditions, and those traditions have meaning; profound, sacred meaning, and very important spiritual purposes and intentions. They are not just old and outdated and stiff traditions; they are symbolic.
    It is not a matter of changing the culture for the sake of being modern. It is a matter of changing expressions without changing the deep and profound meaning those expressions represent, convey and carry.
    Reflection is a term very much used in Chistian Science to explain our relationship with our Creator, which is spiritual as well as sciantifically based. The meaning of the word Reflection includes "to think or consider; to meditate," which implies a state of mental quiteness that should not be disrrupted by applauses or any other exhuberant expression of unnecessary emotionalism during a Christian Science service.
    Christian Science is not old or new; it is timeless, and so, the spiritual meaning should be preserved untouched by cultural changes, or changes in the human mentality. The laws of reflection have never been changed; its meaning hasn't changed, and that is what we do during our services and always: we reflect. We don't clap or sing or dance; scream or laugh or cry during our services. We simply reflect.
    Be careful, very careful, of letting the world in where it doesn't belong. Clara Fuentes

  40. Wow, oh my is Christian Science about deciding what is right for others or about our own individual relationship with God and expressing the Light we glean? They will not come if we are caught up in the letter and forget who we really are, not mortals but immortals individual expressions of Divine Love.

  41. Sometimes our solos are very spirited, like for instance, "He's Got the Whole World in His Hands" Of course we clap along with the music It is a lot of shared fun, and lightness during a church service is alway welcome. But clapping after every solo is really meaningless. It becomes obligatory, and members feel they have to clap along with the few who start the clapping for fear of hurting the soloist's feelings.
    So after a membership discussion,it was suggested that our congregation not clap unless it is during a solo when clapping is part of our enjoyment of it.
    With tongue in cheek, I have a suggestion. Why don't we clap after the benediction and then sit back down and listen to the postlude.

  42. Love is the motivator.
    I applaud the hearing of the message in the solo if it so moves me. It is a thank you to God. I am so full of praise it just comes naturally. Please don't make someone stifle their joy. The service should be joyful! The applause can be done quietly in your lap. Ask yourself "What is the motive for applause, to praise God or person?" I also clap after the postlude. I wish all would sit down, use this time for a final reflection on the whole service and enjoy the music. Why did Mrs. Eddy include the postlude in the order of services?
    I also sometimes laugh in church (eek) if I am so moved. (usually this is limited to Wed.)
    Joy is God given. Our churches need to express it more. The readers need to express it more. Do you enjoy what you are doing? Does it show in your facial expression? Hmmm. I'm not talking about personality, I am talking about God derived joy! and love for the service.
    A healing service brings much joy! Yea!

  43. The last thing CS churches need is more restrictions, more rules, more lifted eyebrows.
    People should do what feels right. What feels natural and normal. What seems appropriate for the culture of the area, and in strict obedience to the law of Love - not the laws of human edict.

    All of that said, a church service is not really the same thing as a concert, and audience participation is going to naturally be more subdued - generally. If people start clapping, commenting, texting, bustling around all the time, in the middle of the service, it begins to distract from the message. But there are - hopefully - going to be those moments that command audible praise!

  44. I think it is just as bad manners to applaud in church as it is to applaud at the wrong time at a symphony concert. It disturbs the people around you. The solo is as much a part of the healing treatment in the service as the reading of the lesson sermon. Applause is appropriate for entertainment. The solo or any sacred music in any church is not for entertainment. Unfortunately, there are some modern megachurches that resort to entertainment to draw attendees. That's not what we're about in Christian Science churches. We should not be focusing on personality. It's the message, the healing Christ, Truth, that we're focusing on and listening to. If you are responding as you would in a theater or sports arena, you're missing the point. I think that Mrs. Eddy required that the solo not be operatic so that people would not be focusing on personality for entertainment value. That's one of the reasons that we have lay readers instead of preachers too. There is a time to express your appreciation for excellence in performance and there is a time to be silent and contemplate the message. Church is for the latter, not the former.

  45. Every portion of the Sunday Service in CS churches is for healing. The service, as has been said, is a treatment for the world. Since the service is a " whole" to single out a portion to applaud seems strange to me. However, if one were to applaud after the Scriptural selection, and after the Lord's Prayer, and after the giving of the Lesson Sermon, AND after the collection, etc., by all means include the soloist!

    I remember once when reading in a prison, someone out in the middle of the group of men attending, kept saying out loud, after every meaningful passage, "AMEN" That was a great "Thank you!" Maybe that would be something to think about - to say aloud together - after the Benediction.

  46. It seems to me that these types of discussions are just our modern rendition of "Should morning coats and evening gowns be worn for ushering?"

    What counts is our state of thought, not what we wear or if we clap. I've been in services where people have said, "Amen!" out loud during the lesson. It makes me sit up and take notice. Was I paying enough attention to know what grabbed theirs?

    God gaves us dominion over our bodies and we govern feeling and action. That includes what I hear and see and whether it distracts me or enhances my experience. I am responsible for my own behavior and nobody else's affects mine. So whether others clap, call out, cough, walk out, fidget or whisper during the service, it is up to me to discipline my own thought. Nobody's behavior bothers us unless we give it permission to do so. And nobody's sense of spontaneous joy can be a distraction.

  47. I have enjoyed reading all of the responses. It is obvious that what, at first, seemed to me a discussion about a very trivial point, is really about something much more significant.

    It would appear that opinion is about evenly divided between the "clappers" and the "non-clappers". I definitely, as I have said before in other posts, throw my vote in with the "clappers". That being said, I think the more important point here is that in order to better reach the newcomer, the CS service needs to be loosened up in whatever way seems appropriate at the time in the individual branch church situation.

    I recommend that posters on this blog take the time to look at the work being done at the CS Society in San Juan Capistrano, CA. If you look at their website, you will see from their Sunday service bulletin, etc. that they emphasize a warm, loving and very informal atmosphere at their services. Also, after the Sunday service, everyone in the congregation is invited to stay for a social hour, for fellowship and refreshments.

    Two other CS branches which stress informality at their services are in the St. Louis area: the Lafayeete Square Society, and First Church Brentwood. I know that there have been video clips about the Lafayette Square group on the Church Alive site. The Brentwood church has recently incorporated the CS Fellowship group into their church and has developed many innovative programs. Check it out!

  48. I would like to think our churches are beginning to move away from traditional stereotyping towards the marvelous spirit of exploring what spontaneous joy can look like and feel like in its many different ways of being expressed by different peoples. I would love to hear: "Ahhh! What a joyous clapping she gave forth. How lovely his cheering sounded in expressing his love for the solo. How tender her bravo resounded....." Joy loved in all its colors tears down walls of human opinions on just how we should act and show our love and joy. Let's embrace each one's unique show of joy.

  49. Back in the '60's, Erwin Canham presented readings at one of the Annual Meeting sessions. The readings were done in such a free-flowing, conversational way that many audience members must have thought it was a talk.

    Back in the 60's, Erwin Canham presented readings at one of the Annual Meeting sessions. The readings were given in such a free-flowing, conversational way that some members must have thought he was giving a talk. As he concluded the readings applause broke out from some, but others gave questioning looks to the applauders. They quickly realized they had been listening to readings and stopped clapping. I learned from Mr Canham to make it a goal to always let inspiration guide my presentations -- be they songs, readings or sermons.

  50. I love this discussion and the comments. I also love it when our church breaks free from habitual ritual. As Sherry says, Love is the motivator, joy is God-given. In this, whatever seems natural and good in any branch church should be right. What seems wrong is the critical response by some. We should rejoice in others' joy.

    In our church, the First Reader always thanks the soloist and the organist by name right after the solo, and I have noticed that the First Reader in The Mother Church does the same. Also, congregants who stay applaud the postlude in our church as they do in TMC. (I think it would be as uncomfortable to feel you had to applaud every solo by some established ritual as it is to feel applause is wrong.) And I, too, have done silent applause the soloist could see after an especially moving musical experience. If possible, I then thank the soloist personally after the service. (One of our solists leaves at a back door right after the service, so thanking her personally would be very difficult.)

  51. So what is wrong with clapping, "Allelujia", "praise the Lord" or "ALL RIGHT!". The last thing I want to belong to is a church of stuffed shirts. Brekenya.

  52. Live inspired! Sometimes the solo leads me to quiet prayer, even repentance, or it touches me so deeply with comforting Love that there are tears but there are those solos that lift my spirit and clapping can not be restrained! We can be done with restrictive worship and feel the JOY in our services, the celebration of the healing Truth. We will not be tamped down by formality but guided and freed by Soul's inspiring presence! yqp

  53. "To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven ...." eccl 3:1 If we want to clap hands and applaud we should go to the theater.
    We can always go and talk to the soloist or the organist etc after the service and tell them our appreciation and gratitude without disturbing others.

  54. The issue is although I study CS for years, their is an inner conflict. This is why even a smile at times, or laughter is controlled thru MBEs writings, if you show humaness, ie a laugh , a hug, an applause, thats mortal mind, and God forbid we are taught that we are a spiritual idea, and the physical world is an illusion. Seel Hinduism and Gnosticism for the similiarites. Even the Bagavad Gita is so similar to Eddys first edition, it had to be changed to make it acceptable to all us eddyites.
    I am a musician, and clapping is fine, Too much of CS is is paralysis by analysis. They dont stop to smell the roses, but there is lots of like the egptian river, Denial

  55. Hi Pat: a mention about going to the theatre, why thats a quote right out of Lona Ingwersons talk on Chrisitan Scientists, I applaud your recall.

  56. I agree with the responders who have pointed out that there's two issues here-- the first being applause, the second being chastisement. Perhaps some branch churches or members might not find applause to be appropriate where for others its a part of the spirit of the service. Grateful that its up for churches to follow their highest sense of right on the matter. But chastising one another is likely not the most loving way of bringing about change or adjustments if they're needed. And Dave, I don't think that Mary Baker Eddy would actually agree with our sentiment that hugs or laughter or smiles have to be stifled or limited. In fact, at many points in her writings she talks about how these human expressions can point upward or give a glimpse of Spirit. She also had strong words for churches that were cold, rote, and monotone. It seems to me that there is a lovely sense of balance to be found between overly zealous and emotional and cold and unfeeling.

  57. Hot topic to generate so many responses! Great! What I like to do is smile encouragement at the soloist, nod my head in pleasure, give thumbs up or silent applause sometimes as the Spirit moves me. I try to show my love and appreciation for the beautiful music and effort by the musicians. I like to praise the organist, too after the service. Very few understand the tremendous work that goes into playing the organ well.

  58. I just noticed this question from a few weeks ago and thought I'd pass on a wonderful response which came from the CS Board of Directors when they visited our area about 10 years ago and were asked this question.

    Tom Black took the question and said something like "If you know how to stop people from clapping in appreciation, you'll have to let us know what it is, since it just happens spontaneously." Of course, we all laughed. How can you keep people from joyous expression of gratitude?

  59. I, too, just discovered this question and the long chain of responses. By quick survey, it appears that most of the soloists prefer not to be applauded. That's telling testimony. Have been attending The Mother Church for a couple of years, and the thanks by name to the musicians, although quietly done, does give the impression that the music -- specifically, just the solo -- is a special addition to the service. It breaks the continuity between solo and Lesson, and tends subtly to personalize "offering" into "performance." The other platform members play their roles beautifully but unnamed. The loving, joyous expressions on the TMC Readers' faces and in their voices, the warm benevolence of their presence, makes for a plenty lively service, often approaching a Pentecostal event! The program for the service is readily available in the lobbies for those who appreciate knowing music titles and names of platform officiants. As a branch church Reader, I felt that the best thanks, the best barometer for the service, was attentive faces (whether joyful, meditative, or intensely alert)in the congregation. If someone finds a CS service stilted or otherwise unsatisfactory, is that one perhaps sitting by a pool of Bethesda waiting for someone else to stir the waters -- when what really needs stirring is one's own thought?

  60. While pondering the topic of criticism, I found a comment by an early reader of Science and Health helpful (p. 686): "I am thankful for all these proofs, but far more grateful am I for the spiritual teaching to love, to forgive, to curb my tongue, and cease my criticism."

    Mortal mind would try to divide and destroy a branch church, a marriage, a friendship, a team, etc by many subtle means, including finding fault in each other. Unfortunately this disrupts what's fundamental to a healthy relationship, namely, trust.

    When we can realize that it's not PEOPLE who are the problem, but a suggestion of many minds (also known as animal magnetism), we are on our way to forgiving and forgetting, and therefore HEALING and harmony. I love the recent Sentinel (Aug 13) on "An Answer to Conflict", especially "Stick to the true landmarks" by Ann Grekel Hightower. Hurt feelings are "false landmarks" which our Leader tells us we should be glad to leave and joyful to see disappear (see Science and Health p. 324).

    Church membership presents many challenges, and it's good to know that we can address them prayerfully and see them resolved, and thus afford "proof of [the] utility" of church.

    This is "letting [our] light shine before men" that God may be glorified.

  61. I have a website that has been up and running for some time now, and for numerous reasons I want to replace it with a Wordpress site.. . So, how do I start building the Wordpress site - in a seperate folder from the "publichtml" folder? Then when you are ready to move it into the publichtml folder, do you have to correct whatever file-paths and link errors?.

  62. Here's what my church did as this issue was put "on the table" at a meeting. Nearly everyone voted to not clap. However if newcomers clapped that's fine.
    Every week our musicians and singers are personally thanked by many after the service.
    Also the first reader introduces the solo and musicians and singer by name. No lack of appreciation here!
    Every church will be different...this is how we handled it.