As this opening song starts, the pastor or music director will say to the people to shake hands with everybody and introduce yourself if you see someone you don't recognize. The people all get up, chattering amongst each other, making the rounds around the sanctuary. This happens all the time across the US, but in the 3 churches I have been either a member of, (or at least a regular attending person for a few years), I keep noticing that during this period of time that no matter what church I was in, there always seems to be the same cast of characters that show up in each congregation.
First you have the elderly woman (or women) that play the part of "everyone's Grandma". They've been in the congregation for many years, they know everyone, and if you don't know you yet, well, believe me, they will get to know you. During this time period, they will always insist on hugging and kissing everyone they meet.
Second you have the "always happy guy" character. He is usually a deacon or Sunday School teacher, or just simply an well established and respected member of the congregation. He's usually a large, middle aged guy who always seems happy, has to greet everyone, and if he knows you, he will insist on saying, "Hi (your name)" rather loudly, and will give a strong handshake before insisting on a big "brotherly hug".
Third, you have the pastor himself. He's always in a suit, or at least a shirt and tie, will give you handshake so strong you are wondering if he's trying to see if he can break a finger or two. After the painful handshake, he will insist on putting his hand on top of your shoulder, or on the back of the shoulder, and act like your therapist or your caring older brother, and ask in a very concerned voice "How have you been doing this past week, are you alright?"
There's always some variation on these characters, but they will show up in one form or combination or another, and they all have one thing in common: They have to touch everybody they see, and get into your personal space. They mean no harm by it, but they feel like they aren't a proper Christian church member if they don't touch and get into the personal space of everyone they meet on a Sunday morning.
To me, it's incredibly annoying. I can't stand it when people touch me, I just can't. Handshakes are OK (so long as they aren't the finger breaking version I mentioned earlier), but anything beyond that from most people, even my own family, just makes my skin crawl. I know, it's rather odd, but I feel like my personal space is being invaded every time, it makes me feel trapped. The only affection I like is when it's coming from a female friend I am rather close to, or from a girlfriend when I am in a relationship. Then I absolutely enjoy it.
It's strange, I know, but I usually don't say anything about it. It's not worth explaining it to people all the time, and there are worse things to complain about in this world. This past Sunday, when the morning introduction period was going on in the church I am undercover in, it brought to mind this cartoon from my favorite webcomic Cyanide and Happiness:
I just don't understand why people feel the need to do this in churches. Are there any current or former Christians that have experienced this phenomenon in churches? Do you understand why people do this?
Not only do I find overly touchy people annoying, but I get that trapped feeling in other circumstances as well. I don't mind being in a small room, or even in an elevator, it's not claustrophobia, but I hate it when people seem to feel the need to crowd around me in a circle when they are talking, or block my path to the exits to the room I happen to be in. That makes me feel trapped as well. It's incredibly irrational, but I want to be able to leave a room anytime I want to, without people getting in my way.
Can anyone else out there identify with this?