Tag Archives: applause

Strange days

A strange one….yesterday I conducted a wedding at a local popular venue. First of all, the couple were delightful & the guests lovingly supportive toward the bride and groom…..but, here’s a thing: after the ceremony and the signing of the legal papers, having wished the couple well, on my way out I said to the company that I hoped that they would have a great celebration at the reception & a safe journey home. Added my thanks for their being there to rejoice with the bride and groom on that particularly happy day…… and got a round of applause!

But that’s not the strange bit. Before the service, I chatted to a new member of staff. Was asked if I were a minister (the dog-collar should have been a giveaway!) Answer: ‘yes – Church of Scotland’

‘Are you allowed to get married? Or have sex?’

‘Yes, but I’m a widower’

‘Are you in a relationship?’

‘No. And who would want a 69 year old wee fat man who is retired?’

‘Unless they’ve got loads of money’


‘You’re retired – does the Church still (?) give you a car?

“No, I’ve got my own”

“What kind?” ………..

…… so, after the ceremony, he follows me into the car park to look at my Jaguar – and asked if he could reverse it.

Saved by the piper – escorting the marriage party out. He had to dash back to get on with work.

Strange. Very strange


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The Sound of Silence

On the morning of the eleventh of November, 1937, precisely at eleven o’clock, some well-meaning busybody consulted his watch and loudly announced the hour, with the result that all of us in the dining-car felt constrained to put aside drinks and newspapers and spend the two minutes’ silence in rather embarrassed stares at one another or out of the window. Not that anyone had intended disrespect–merely that in a fast-moving train we knew no rules for correct behaviour and would therefore rather not have behaved at all.

James Hilton, “Random Harvest”


Has the Two Minute Silence on Remembrance Day Lost Its Original Meaning?

Dr Raj Persaud, Adrian Furnham Nov 11, 2013

The famous two minute silence of Remembrance Sunday is a moving tribute to those who lost their lives defending this country in military conflict.

The silence allows for private reflection, and yet also creates an exceptional sense of solidarity. Boundaries of age, sex, class, and religion, are set aside for this unique ritual, adding to the psychological power of the event, helping us feel bonded to each other in remembrance.

The silence has historical roots in the Victorian era which emphasised solemnity, sobriety and the suppression of overt emotional expression in public. Silence becomes the most dignified way to grieve, when loss is normally expressed in private.

Steven Brown, Professor of Social and Organisational Psychology at the University of Leicester, in his study entitled, ‘Two minutes of silence: Social technologies of public commemoration’, sees the hush as a striking and uncanny interruption of the ordinary rhythm of life, re-creating the silence that follows the clamour of battle.

But is the distinctive psychological power of the two-minute silence now endangered in the modern era?

The key reference on Armistice Day is Adrian Gregory’s 1994 book ‘The silence of memory: Armistice Day 1919-1946’. Gregory points out early Armistice Days had enormous impact because of the extraordinary effect of whole cities falling still. Steven Brown contends ‘modern silences’ no longer carry that force, partly because the noise of contemporary life means they are never terribly quiet any more, plus the psychological novelty has worn off.

Professor Brown wonders whether we shouldn’t be finding new practices that do generate novel experiences, where we can reflect on the important things being commemorated. Are we holding on to formal public silence as a commemorative technique that may have had its day?

Liam Foster and Kate Woodthorpe from the University of Sheffield and the University of Bath have pointed out in their recent investigation of silences and commemorations at Football matches that there is mounting controversy over ‘silence inflation’. More and longer silences have been added in recent years to commemorate various events.

They cite the examples of how in 1996, following the murder of 16 children and their teacher in Dunblane, a two minute silence was held across the UK. 9/11 was commemorated by a three minute silence across the Western world. Following the train bombs in Madrid, March 2004, was Europe’s first three minute silence. At noon on July 14, 2005, a three minute silence across the United Kingdom was for those killed by suicide bombers in London.

Foster and Woodthorpe point out in their recent investigation of this subject, entitled ‘Football Games A Golden Silence? Acts of Remembrance and Commemoration at U.K.’ that in response to the three minute silence for victims of the Asian tsunami disaster at the end of 2004, military historian Max Hastings suggested in the Daily Mail, that, “the three minute silence diminishes the only such event that matters, our annual two-minute commemoration of those who fell in the world wars.”

Published in the ‘Journal of Sport and Social Issues’, Foster and Woodthorpe’s study highlights how true silence is increasingly difficult. Examples include the 2008 decision of the Manchester United board to hold a minute’s silence at the Old Trafford derby game, in memory of the 1958 air crash. It directly contradicted Manchester City Supporters’ Club’s desire to request fans applaud as a way of remembering those who died.

In fact much of Manchester City Supporters’ Club’s oppositional stance to the silence was anxiety over potential trouble from their fans. From the perspective of Manchester City Supporters’ Club, a minute’s applause provided the opportunity to cover up any disrespectful chants by Manchester City fans.

On the day itself the silence was respectfully observed, but when Liverpool played Italian side Juventus in the first leg of the European Champions League quarter-finals at Liverpool’s Anfield Stadium, things did not go so smoothly.

The game on 5 April, 2005, was the first time the two clubs had met since the European Cup final in Brussels on 29 May, 1985, when rioting caused a wall to collapse, crushing 39 Italian spectators.

To mark the event, both sets of fans intended to be gracious toward rival supporters. But when asked to stand in silence to remember the recent death of Pope John Paul II, the typical Italian custom of the minute’s applause, clashed with the Liverpool supporters’ expectations of a minute’s silence.

As a result, Juventus fans spontaneously applauded in the middle of the minute’s silence, and were aggressively booed by the Liverpool followers when the minute ended.

Steven Brown traces the history of the two minute silence back to before Armistice Day, which was first marked through the use of the two minute silence at 11am on 11 November in 1919. Public silence had been adopted before in the UK – the death of King Edward VII in 1910 was marked with a minute’s silence, as was news of Titanic sinking in 1912.

But the real reason the two minute silence was adopted was in fact political, points out Professor Brown. National unity was a very real concern for the British government in 1919. The establishment was facing the mass return of demobilized soldiers, many with legitimate grievances against the state, who might potentially be recruited to extremist political causes.

The two minute silence was deployed then, according to Steven Brown’s argument, published in the journal ‘Theory and Psychology’, for the community to rediscover itself, to temporarily suspend disputes, becoming unified in common remembrance of loss. The silence was a way of combining private thoughts with a collective sense of solidarity. An enormous objective – all from just two minutes of silence – indicating its peculiar psychological ambition and power.

Brown points out that when we fall quiet today for the remembrance two minutes, we don’t achieve much hush at all – the modern world continues to be noisy. The silence just makes the background din to our lives more apparent. This might sound cynical – the BBC images of the monarch standing amidst the hush are powerful – but does the two minute silence now only really work as a television spectacle?

Professor Brown also points to the examples of one minute modern silences held at major sporting events, where cameras feeding images to large screens around the stadium, linger on faces of players and selected members of the crowds. The terraces see, in close detail, how the silence is being “felt” by each other.

Professor Brown argues that the original power of the silence was the idea that no words could do justice to the full measure of the losses being considered.

But have we lost the ability today to be properly quiet and still? Perhaps a deeper understanding of what true silence means, has long vanished.

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are marriage services the new X Factor?


Oh Lord, are marriage services the new X Factor? How I cringe when people clap during weddings


PUBLISHED: 23:22, 26 June 2013 | UPDATED: 23:22, 26 June 2013

The happy moment had arrived – but some of us in the congregation were bracing ourselves for what we feared was about to happen.

‘I now declare James and Fiona man and wife,’ said the priest. And with that the congregation erupted in jubilant applause.

There were a lot people shouting ‘Wooha!’ and ‘Bravo!’ and even whistling, not unlike that heard at football matches when part of the crowd wants to attract the attention of the referee.

Wedded to our X Factor: Weddings are not entertainment - we should not be clapping during themWedded to our X Factor: Weddings are not entertainment – we should not be clapping during them

The priest just about managed to restore order before reminding us politely but firmly: ‘I have not quite finished.’

Then he boomed: ‘And those whom God has joined together let no man put asunder.’

This warranted further wild applause and I wouldn’t have been surprised if champagne corks had started popping. Informality ruled for the rest of the service.

Two siblings of the groom sang a song while the newly married couple signed the register and this, too, was greeted with rapturous applause more suited to a TV talent contest.

And, of course, when James and Fiona walked back down the aisle at the start of their married life, clapping accompanied their every step.

Now that we’re into the summer wedding season, I’ve been taking soundings, and it seems that this kind of behaviour is perfectly normal at nuptials these days.

But there are plenty of us who wish this was not the case.

Unfortunately, the Church of England doesn’t agree. It appears that as long as the legalities of a wedding are catered for, pretty much anything goes at modern church weddings – and that’s a pity.

Silence, please: Restraint can be liberating and it is this that makes traditional weddings so movingSilence, please: Restraint can be liberating and it is this that makes traditional weddings so moving

Compare the lack of decorum at my friends’ wedding with the dignity of the service in Westminster Abbey marking 60 years since the Queen’s Coronation.

That was a joyful celebration, too. But it was carried out in a wonderfully British and solemn sort of way that allowed everyone -including the Queen herself – to reflect privately on the significance of the occasion.

The glorious music would have been devalued by clapping. Indeed, applauding the Queen as she made her way back down the aisle would have made her cringe and despair at our X Factor culture.

Call me buttoned-up and out of touch, but restraint can be liberating. That’s why traditional weddings are so moving.

Weddings are not meant to be entertainment, with the couple in the starring roles. Just as Bach famously wrote ‘Soli Deo Gloria’ (Glory to God Alone) on all his music, a religious service of any kind – be it baptism, wedding or funeral – is about the glorification of God.

Applauding a song or homily, or indeed the completion of a couple’s vows, reinforces the secular notion that what’s just been witnessed was merely a marvellous performance.

‘People don’t know how to behave in church because they so  seldom go.’

It doesn’t help that at the start of most church weddings, the congregation is already in boisterous mood: friends greeting each other as they would at a drinks party, women in inappropriate strapless dresses chatting noisily and admiring each other’s outfits, a general saloon bar buzz that drowns out the organist’s reflective pre-wedding music.

No wonder vicars now make a point of issuing guidelines to prevent a free-for-all shortly before the bride arrives.

‘Feel free to take photographs at the end,’ said the priest in charge at my friends’ service, ‘but please don’t move around the church with cameras, phones or tablets during the actual service.’

Part of the problem is that people don’t know how to behave in church because they so seldom go.

My own local vicar in Wiltshire, the Reverend Simon Weeden, tells a nice story about a father who said to his daughter shortly before escorting her into church on her wedding day: ‘Are you nervous, darling?’

To which the bride responded: ‘Of course I’m nervous, Dad, this is the first time I’ve been inside a church.’

The Church of England rightly encourages couples to get married in church, hoping that the experience will encourage them to attend more regularly, especially once they have children.

With this in mind, the Common Worship Wedding Service, which was introduced in 2000, was specifically designed to meet the desire of couples to personalise their special day.

This seems to be working. Indeed, following the marriage of Prince William and Kate Middleton in 2011, marriages in church were up by almost 50 per cent.

Marital boost: Following the marriage of Prince William and Kate Middleton in 2011, marriages in church were up by almost 50%Marital boost: Following the marriage of Prince William and Kate Middleton in 2011, marriages in church were up by almost 50%

That year, more than 400,000 people (double that of the previous year) logged on to a website set up by the Church of England (yourchurchwedding.org) to encourage couples to have a church wedding.

As part of this campaign, vicars are being dispatched to bridal shows to man stalls promoting C of E weddings. Nothing wrong with that, just as long as churches aren’t merely presented as pretty ‘venues’, in competition with hotel ballrooms, castles and Caribbean beaches.

‘Three years ago, we were doing nine or ten weddings a year in my parish,’ says Rev Kate Bottley, vicar of St Mary’s and St Martin’s in Blyth, near Nottingham. ‘Now we’re doing almost 30 – and I must say all of them involve clapping once the couple officially become man and wife.’

She says clapping at weddings is something that’s developed in the past five years.

‘I think it’s because audience participation has become such a way of modern life. And perhaps people experience a sense of unfamiliarity in church and need to express themselves by clapping so that they feel more at home.’

Perhaps, but it’s the austerity and implicit mystery of a religious service that gives it lasting authority. Clapping, taking photographs, videoing, tweeting – however well-intentioned – should play no part in proceedings.

Yes, it’s the newly married couple’s day. But it’s God’s house.

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