Join the debate. Vote Now on the Dear Abby Poll of the week.

by Abigail Van Buren

Church Applause Welcomed as Joyful Noise to the Lord

DEAR ABBY: Regarding the woman who complained about clapping in church: She should relax and enjoy. Worship doesn't have to be a somber and expressionless experience. The Psalmist tells us, "Make a joyful noise unto the Lord."

Black churches are renowned for their dynamic expressions of faith. What's wrong with church members expressing their enjoyment of worship? Amen and hallelujah!

When the choir or soloists use their God-given talents in a worship service, worshipers should be free to express their appreciation. We clap at the church I attend. Yes, there are a few silent types who seem shocked at the vocal majority, but most of us believe there's nothing wrong with showing our appreciation to those who use their God-given musical talents for the rest of us to enjoy. -- NANCY WHITFORD, CHAMPAIGN, ILL.

DEAR NANCY: The majority of those who have written to me about clapping in church approve of the practice, although until recently it was considered improper. I see nothing wrong with thanking talented people with a round of applause for the religious inspiration they provide. Read on:

DEAR ABBY: While I would not care to have a solo or choir selection interrupted, I believe applause is an affirmation of praise from the congregation to God -- another form of the shouted "Amen!" that's often heard in some congregations. -- JACK M. HARDWICK, ARLINGTON, TEXAS

DEAR ABBY: I have been an Episcopal priest for 33 years, ministering to the "frozen chosen," as others call us. I began ministerial life as a cleric, believing in the rectitude of proper demeanor in worship. This meant that a show of joy or emotion was forbidden.

After years of looking out at the congregation and seeing frustration on the faces of those who wanted to join in an expression of appreciation for some moving sermon, reading, choir anthem or instrumental piece, I have been converted. In the Old Testament worshipers are taught: Clap your hands, all you peoples; shout to God with loud songs of joy (Psalms 47:1). In other passages, all of creation is to praise God with clapping and singing. Psalm 98:8 says: Let floods clap their hands; let the hills sing together for joy. In Isaiah 55:12, we read: For you shall go out in joy, and be led back in peace; the mountains and the hills before you shall burst into song, and all the trees of the field shall clap their hands.

Lest this be biased in favor of the positive, clapping was also used to show negative feelings. One example, Lamentations 2:15 tells us: All who pass along the way clap their hands at you; they hiss and wag their heads at the daughter of Jerusalem.

Freedom to express joy and appreciation is especially important when the young join us. They need to know they are welcomed in worship. -- RONALD C. BAUER, RECTOR, SAN JUAN CAPISTRANO, CALIF.

DEAR ABBY: I am having a difficult time trying to find the correct name for a function, and I'm asking for your help. The function I'm referring to is a get-together where food is served after a funeral and burial. Generally it is held at a church social hall or a community center.

Thank you, Abby. I'm waiting for your reply. -- EDWARD C. HOGGE, BENA, VA.

DEAR EDWARD: There is no specific term for it. In the Jewish religion, it's called "sitting shiva" -- and during that week-long period, friends and relatives bring food to the bereaved family. In the Christian religions, it might be called a wake, a repast, a memorial lunch or dinner, a reception -- or simply a gathering.

To order "How to Write Letters for All Occasions," send a business-sized, self-addressed envelope, plus check or money order for $3.95 ($4.50 in Canada) to: Dear Abby, Letter Booklet, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, Ill. 61054-0447. (Postage is included.)

4520 Main St., Kansas City, Mo. 64111; (816) 932-6600