Its interesting to ponder the sharing of the peace, especially so as to how it is practiced, or not practiced across a multitude of churches. Near as I can tell, its origin of the practice spun out of the need to make oneself right with others prior to eating the bread and drinking the cup. Ie one was to seek out those who they had wronged and make amends during this time slot in reference to 1 Cor 11. Alas, over the centuries the practice and meaning of the practice has changed…
I remember my doc years ago telling me how much he disliked sharing the peace, as in his opinion, hand to hand contact followed shortly thereafter by communion was just asking for trouble from an infectious disease perspective. I think of a friend of mine who was in the last stage of cancer, who couldn’t shake hands as he was undergoing chemo. I’m not so sure how loving ones neighbor plays out in this, especially across a diverse congregation where its likely not prudent for everyone to engage the same way. Tradition / peer pressure conformity is a powerful thing to go up against, no matter how wise individual approaches might be.
That being said, I have come across some fascinating approaches to sharing the peace. In some churches, it is done with a wave of the hand, or a nod of the head, thus precluding any human contact. In one church, vials of hand sanitizer were present in every pew next to the Bibles and were diligently used by everyone. While hand sanitizer is not 100%, its a whole lot better than doing nothing.
And yet in some churches, sharing the peace ends up being a massive hugfest, which in todays climate due to things like #metoo and #churchtoo is thankfully becoming less and less prevalent… to say nothing of being off putting to visitors, or perhaps offputting to visitors not of the same mindset.
And yet for some, the human connectedness of a handshake or hug is a huge deal and helps them connect with the congregation at large. I think of my late wife, and how she’d have me roll her ambulance gurney from one side of the aisle to the other for her to shake hands with folks in the pews. The little kids thought it was pretty awesome, as well as some of the seniors. For her, despite being immuno compromised, the connectedness was of much greater importance than was the risk of contracting another’s illness. And yet for others, like my friend who passed away a while back, the mutual hand wave was more than enough.