Northlake Lighthouse – September 2019

hands over heart

The Appreciative Gesture

Rev. Nancy Reid-McKee, Minister


How do we show appreciation? How do we display our support, empathy or excitement, particularly during Sunday morning service when we hear a lovely piece of music, a shared sorrow, inspiring announcement or moving celebration?


A natural response may be to clap when we want to show are listening or that we like what we hear. Clapping is usually reserved for performance, though, and not so much for times we are either in worship or exploring our spiritual nature.


I have overheard congregants apologizing to the Sunday morning musicians twice recently, saying they felt terrible that the congregation didn’t clap. Both times the musician answered that they actually were grateful there was no applause. The silence showed them that we had been deeply moved, and that was what they hoped for.


If we want to show we are moved there are several physical gestures we can display. These show we are listening and engaged and may avoid that awkward moment of only a few folk clapping:

  • Jazz Hands:  One gesture includes holding your hands in the air and shaking them.  This shows enthusiastic support or excitement.
  • Hand to Heart: A gesture I have learned to use is placing my hand over my heart.  This gesture conveys that my heart has been touched, I have been deeply moved, or I care about what has been said.  I may quietly say “Hoooo…” as well, which conveys that I have felt a divine breath move within me.
  • Prayer Hands (or Namaste): Some folk also hold their hands together in front of their chest.  This is a gesture of respect, literally meaning you see the divine in the other. It conveys your deep appreciation for the other person.


There are times it is appropriate to be noisy.  There are some moments we need to shout out our joy or outrage. And, since we welcome all ages into our congregations, we expect life noises to be part of the worship time. The question before us is this: how do we show appreciation.


Let’s continue to explore this. There is no one best way, but we do want to show that we are moved and we are appreciative while honoring the space of the sanctuary.