Is the end of handshaking the start of real fellowship?
The latest recommendations for limiting the spread of Coronavirus include no handshaking. For churches, where the handshake may be an informal, or sometimes official, type of greeting it may seem like a loss. I think it may be a gain and will cause us to rethink just how close our fellowship can be.
Full disclosure here. I know some churches where there is a time when the service stops and people officially greet one another, usually with a handshake. I respect their choice. But as a layperson, I have always found this awkward and forced. Worse, I know introverts for whom that time is excruciating. Worse still when the people who smiled and said hi in the 'official greeting time' ignore you after the service.
I won't mourn for the passing of that tradition in the name of health. But what about those sincere times when you just want to say 'Hi' and an extended hand is the reflex action. "Handshakes reveal a lot about the type of person you are" it is often said. A firm handshake is an indicator of confidence, etc etc. That may be so in business and commerce but surely we can put more thought into our fellowship?
What are the options?
If handshakes are out, what else might break the ice? In the old days, the right hand of friendship was literally that - if you were extending your right hand you couldn't reach for a sword or a dagger. Because of Coronavirus, people overseas are substituting elbow touching and even foot-tapping for handshakes.
A feet together greeting surely must be a challenge of balance. Can I suggest sincere conversation as an alternative? This starts with a greeting like you mean it and proceeds with questions as to the person's welfare. Practice really listening to the answers. Rather than giving a hurried handshake and then turning away, this would force us to be intentional about encouraging people at church. The end of handshaking might mean that our fellowship will be closer by being (physically) a little further apart.