For the past few months there was something we weren’t allowed to do in Unitarian Church. Considering all of the things that UUs are tolerant of—if not whole-heartedly accepting and celebratory of–it was extremely amusing to me that we discouraged from…clapping. The week before the first service I attended, apparently there had been a complaint that the clapping was distracting. Surely the complainer was not representative of the whole, joyful body of patrons, but being the accommodating organization the church is, the leaders of the congregation encourage us to show our approval in some other, quiet way. Jazz hands or hand rubbing were suggested. It seemed a little ridiculous to me that out of all the churches in the world, this 100% progressive church would have to put a red mark next to “clapping” in it’s ledger. Seriously, never have I been around so many beautifully-hearted people.

(Matt and I had suspicion that it was one of the older ladies because, inevitably, a few people would forget and joyfully offer up an applause and once we saw this lady whip around and stare at the vanguard hands with Stearn Grandma eyes.)

From my observation, it is not in the UU’s nature to repress any expression of love or pleasure. And while the hand-rubbing/jazz hand mix would dominate most of the service, clapping would sprout up like weeds among the audience members after particularly moving moments. Every time this happened I would involuntarily feel like a member of a small revolution of Joy. Like “Haha! We clap in the face of anti-clappers! *CLAP* *CLAP*” I’ll never be the one to incite the clapping, but when it gets started I can always be counted on to give a lusty applause.

Now, as time has increased between the initial banishment, clapping has become nearly a standard in our services (usually towards the end once emotional momentum has built up) reserved for deep appreciation for what’s been said or done. For example, the first time Matt did a solo. Or when one of the members spoke about her experience as lesbian. Or a touching story about family dynamics, and dealing with then problem therein. And so on. But basically no a service goes by where there isn’t something incredibly powerful said or done.

Today was a particular treat. The new Denver poetry slam team, Slam Nuba (last year’s winners at the national poetry slam competition) performed for us. The collective talent of the group is incredible and it was such a privilege to bare witness to each of their stories as they poured their souls out to us. I can’t imagine being able to turn such a vulnerable moment into taking a strong command over all of us as audience members. They were so fantastic. Many poems discussing the struggles with their race, one about being a single father…being a new mother…being abused as a child…a poem from two of the teachers about the one student that makes it—through a trouble home, foster care, and day after day of hiding in the bushes. These people were giving so much of themselves to us and not to present them with anything other than our unrestrained support, acknowledgement, and appreciate for their poems would have been wrong.

Needless to say we all clapped heartily, towards the end, giving many standing ovations. Many of the other members, not being as cold hearted as myself, were tearful during the majority of the service. In fact, I think the entire slam team was misty-eyed as well.

Via la clapping!


Always giving you my applause,