The Handshake Song


    I’m so glad I’m a part of the Family of God,
    I’ve been washed in the fountain, cleansed by His Blood!
    Joint heirs with Jesus as we travel this sod,
    For I’m part of the family,
    The Family of God

There are certain songs, church songs, that make me want to walk around the room and shake hands.  That’s one of them.  That’s one of the greeting choruses our home church sings.  A handshake song.  We sing it through once, then we walk around and shake hands and hug each other’s necks, then we sing it through a second time while everyone finds their seats again.  

Last year, we were in Brazil worshipping with the church there.  We didn’t know Portuguese, so we were smiling and nodding quite a bit.  Then the congregation started singing that familiar tune, “The Family of God.”  Of course, the whole thing was in Portuguese, but it was the same handshake song from home.  We sang a verse, walked around and hugged and kissed each other’s cheeks and the men vigorously slapped each other on the back.  Those people know how to have a greeting time in church!  And we felt right at home.  

Though there are many things I appreciate about the church we’re attending here, and I know it is the church God wants us to be a part of now, I realized on Sunday what I’ve been missing.  On Sunday, I was back in Virginia, in my home church with the people who were family for more than 13 years.  And after the worship service began, we stood to sing “The Family of God.”  After one verse, everyone moved around, shaking hands and hugging each other.  I was hugged more in one morning than I have been since we moved in December!  (Well, if you don’t count my husband and children.)  

That’s when it hit me.  It’s what I’ve been missing.  The church we’re going to here doesn’t have a greeting time.  Nobody hugs me when they see me.  They don’t hug each other either, so I don’t think it’s just because I’m new.  Since we started going there, I haven’t seen anyone wrap her arms around a sister and say, “I love you.”  Goodness, even people who don’t really like me at my home church hug me and tell me they love me!  🙂  

The people in this church are open and honest.  They share their hearts and they pray for each other.  No doubt about that.  They live out loving each other.  They just don’t share it with giant bear hugs and kisses on the cheek.  

I’m not saying they are wrong.  I know families are different and show their love differently.  It’s just that I like hugging.  And as I stood in the familiar sanctuary on Sunday being hugged by person after person after person who told me they loved me and missed me, my eyes filled with tears and I realized all at once how much I’d missed their hugs.  The lightbulb went off.  This was one of the reasons I haven’t felt quite at home in our new church family.  

So it led me to wonder.  Is it geographical?  cultural?  denominational?  

Help me out.  Does your church body have a greeting time each Sunday morning?  Do you hug?  Do you shake hands?  Do you air-kiss?  Where do you live?  In the north, south, midwest, northwest, southwest?  Or in another country?  Are you Presbyterian or Baptist or charismatic or reformed or liturgical or Methodist or something else?  Are there 50 of you or 200 of you or 2000 of you?  

Would a big bear hug make you uncomfortable?  Or feel right at home?  What about those handshakes that turn into half-hugs, half big pats on the back?  Does it invade your personal space or is it your favorite part of church?


    I’m so glad I’m a part of the Family of God,
    I’ve been washed in the fountain, cleansed by His Blood!
    Joint heirs with Jesus as we travel this sod,
    For I’m part of the family,
    The Family of God


Filed under Christianity, church, faith

15 responses to “The Handshake Song

  1. Bryant

    I feel the same way! Both of my eyes just became a bit teary. It’s so neat when like-minded people get to come into God’s house and truly enjoy being together as part of God’s family. It’s also kinda funny when you just “feel” that a handshake is all some people are looking for. Then there other people you must hug, even if it means squeezing past somebody you just shook hands with. I kinda giggle sometimes when I’m still shaking hands and the singing has already started back again.
    It’s also neat to see how children react to an adult coming up to shake their hand, or watching your own children go up to other adults for a handshake.

  2. Bloggy friends, meet Bryant. One of our favorite people to hug! When Bryant hugs you, you know you’ve been hugged.

    Actually, when Bryant and his wife visited us, the first thing we did was stand in front of our building and give big hugs all around. And, of course, I stood there hugging his wife and crying like a baby.

  3. Wendy

    We mostly shake hands, but there is some hugging going on. No air kissing that I know of.
    I live in Oklahoma, attend a Nazarene church of around 200.

    I like the hugging by people that I know. I would be uncomfortable being hugged by a stranger. I enjoy the handshake time but it always leaves me with a longing for true fellowship (which doesn’t fit in the 2 min. time window.)

  4. I grew up in TX and now live in NC. We attend a fundamental independent Baptist church.

    The church in which I grew up (TX) loved “The Family of God.” I miss singing it, and (not exactly related) I have never attended another church like that one. They truly were family, and no one was ever in a hurry to leave church. There was fellowship time with coffee and doughnuts between Sunday School and church, and the family that cleaned the church that week provided a snack (usually a full-blown meal!) on after church on Sunday nights. We would normally spend about an hour eating and fellowshipping on Sunday evenings. So like I said, they were a true family to us, and I was completely comfortable hugging or kissing them.

    Our current church will occasionally have handshaking time. Frankly, I’m not comfortable hugging mere acquaintances, so I’m happy to just shake hands. I don’t mind hugging close friends every once in a while but will rarely kiss even my family (other than my husband and girls).

  5. In Brazil, the men hugged each other. These great, back-thumping, hearty hugs. The men hugged the women and either kissed their cheeks or touched cheek-to-cheek and kissed the air. The women hugged each other and either kissed each other’s cheeks or touched cheeks and kissed the air.

    And they always smelled so freshly-bathed! 🙂 Most of the people we met use the same type of soap, so they all smelled very similar. If I ever smell it, I will immediately recognize it as the smell of the people in Sao Paulo.

  6. I’ve been thinking about this for a while and meaning to get back here.

    I think this is what I miss most about the little “non-denominational” (because they really do *have* a denomination, they just refuse to call it that) chapel we went to for a year. Everyone hugs. *And* kisses…as in on the cheek that is. Many of the families are recently arrived from India – so even the men kiss one another on the cheek. Well. The Indian men. The Americanos are obviously still kind of freaked out about it! I was amazed to learn what it did to me emotionally just to have all of these (older) men (and women) kissing my cheek. So much of the affection I missed from my own father (and mom, in later years) – it was like it was just being poured out as a balm on me every week.

    Not much hugging going on where we are now – but I have missed so much and we are so often late, that maybe there is and I just miss it or am missing out on it? Where we are is *very* non-denominational – more so than anywhere I have ever been.

    Here in Virginia I have primarily noticed the hugging, the *real* hugging, in the smaller congregations – under a hundred or so. Much bigger and the only place I see it is in (some) close-knit Sunday School classes.

    My in-laws’ church in Maryland is the huggingest bunch of folks, too. Southern Baptist and in the more rural parts of the area outside Baltimore. But also smaller.

  7. (London, Church of England) Exchanging the Peace is part of our liturgy, but whereas in some churches that might be a half-hearted handshake, in our church it is an extended rugby scrum of an event! After the intercessions and before we start the Communion part of the service, the entire service grinds to a halt as we share Christ’s peace. No stiff upper-lip English reserve allowed. Handshakes are the minimum accepted contact, kisses and bearhugs soon become common with even quite reserved people. My husband is the Vicar, but this is what we inherited here so we can take no credit for it – I think it is mainly due to our being a very mixed church (we are half black, a large number of first-generation immigrants from a variety of countries, our social and educational levels are also very varied). We love it! It may not be particularly “peaceful” but it is loving and transforms our worship and ourselves.

  8. We moved to FL last summer from a Bible church in New Hampshire of 80 people. The greeting time was mostly handshakes. Hugs were for special occasions–and no kisses that I recall.

    Now we attend a Baptist Bible Fellowship church of about 200 in FL, with the greetin’est time I’ve seen in about 100 churches. One guest speaker said the people circling around the room looked like a Baptist line dance! Hugs are more plentiful here, but kisses are still hard to come by.

    When I visited my missionary sister in Ecuador, EVERYONE hugged and kissed. I loved it.

  9. stuartdelony


  10. feishty

    Ha ha we sang this song this morning in church and I had just re-read this blog last night, so when we sang it I thought of you :).

  11. 🙂 Thanks! Cute nickname.

  12. Bemis

    My home church in Michigan always has a greeting time. It’s a little Christian Reformed Church (about 50 people) and I’ve been there longer than I can remember. “Greeting Time” would involve everyone greeting everybody with hugs, handshakes, anything! And it would until until the pastor would hint that we should get back to our seats!

    In college, I went to a 400-member Christian Reformed church in Grand Rapids, Michigan. There, people would have about 2 minutes to shake hands and greet the people in front of and behind them. I used to make people let me out of the pew to greet other people that weren’t right around me!

    Now I live in Romania and go to a little Brethren church about the same size as my home church. I feel like I’m missing something without a specific time set aside for greeting people. But people greet with handshaking, kisses on cheeks and occasionally hugs after the service! I do love the cultural tradition of kissing cheeks!

  13. Our church is rather large, with around 500 in each service. There is a greeting time and lots of handshakes and hugs all around. Like another commenter said above, I enjoy hugs from people I know, but to be hugged by someone I don’t know seems a tad strange. I’m sure my feelings would change if we were to spend some time overseas. 😀

  14. Oops! Forgot to say that our church is Assemblies of God.

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