Crying in Church

As a priest, when I lead worship, I try not to cry. It’s not that there is anything wrong with crying in church. Sometimes tears seem the most appropriate form of worship. My concern is that I ugly-cry and I don’t want to distract my fellow worshippers from whatever the Spirit is doing in them with thoughts like, Is she okay?  Mine are no shimmering, glistening, discreet tears.  Mine accompany a red nose and red eyes and the need for a lot of kleenex. So, when I lead worship, I try to hold it together.

But there are a lot of good reasons to cry in church. Weeping can be a prayer of sorrow, joy, lament, hope, an authentic response to beauty, goodness, and God. There is no reason for embarrassment if we find ourselves crying in church.

In my current service in the church I don’t lead worship often.  I miss celebrating, but I feel free to cry.  I don’t cry all the time, but I embrace it when it happens.  Something touches me deeply and before I have a cognitive experience, a thought that something is meaningful or appropriate or needs my attention, tears come and tell me this is so.

Very often tears come during hymns.  A hymn can convey beauty, meaning, truth in a way that moves me deeply.  Hymns also connect me to people who are a part of my life and those who have been a part of my life, but are now in the nearer presence of God.  Sometimes I expect the tears to come (“A Mighty Fortress is Our God” often makes me cry); sometimes tears come as a surprise or in response to a surprise.  Just before we moved to South Africa I cried and sang through the final hymn in the church we attend when we’re in Scotland, “Shine, Jesus, Shine.”  It wasn’t the hymn, it was the occasion, and leaving the familiar, as well as the truth in the hymn.  Then, in the first chapel service at the College of Transfiguration, the hymn sung in English was “Shine, Jesus, Shine.”  Same words, same tune, different accents.  More tears.  Great appreciation for the connection made by the singing of this hymn between home, new home, and being in Jesus wherever we go.

The last chapel service of the semester took place on Friday morning. Most of the students would be leaving after the service.  I didn’t cry until the final hymn, “In Christ Alone.”  It’s a hymn that is sung here with great gusto.  It’s a hymn that was introduced to me and our former parish by Erik Apland, a talented musician, friend, and faithful disciple of Jesus, who died suddenly this fall.  With deep appreciation I thought of Erik, of St. Anne’s, of the College of Transfiguration and our students leaving to begin ordained ministry or for their summer holiday and parish placements, and the truth of the hymn:

In Christ alone my hope is found
He is my light, my strength, my song
This cornerstone, this solid ground,
Firm through the fiercest drought and storm.
What heights of love, what depths of peace,
When fears are stilled, when strivings cease!
My comforter, my all in all
Here in the love of Christ I stand.


  1. Many of your examples when crying occurs, I also have felt.

    Godspeed Pe

    On Sun, Nov 18, 2018, 12:45 PM Amy and Joe Go to Africa wrote:

    > Amy Richter posted: “As a priest, when I lead worship, I try not to cry. > It’s not that there is anything wrong with crying in church. Sometimes > tears seem the most appropriate form of worship. My concern is that I > ugly-cry and I don’t want to distract my fellow worshippers fr” >

    Liked by 1 person

  2. This is so beautiful. It reminds me of the day you announced at St Chrysostom’s your new calling – do you remember? I am closely following what you and Joe are creating, giving experiencing and learning in Africa. It inspires me in our own global health work here. Let’s catch up soon!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I do remember! My last Sunday we did the service for leave-taking and I bawled all the way through. Ray looked at me and smiled gently and said, “You wanted to do this.” Makes me smile now. Would love to catch up soon! Will email–can we Skype or face time? Love to you, Stu, Jack, and Lindsay!


  3. Amy, I cried when we sang the closing hymn on your last Sunday at St. Anne’s – God is Love (I hope I’ve remembered correctly). Still miss you and Joe. 😢
    Happy Thanksgiving!
    Love, Linda

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I also cry in church. I get hooked by an idea, a word, a phrase, and the tears start dripping. It must be hard to hold it together! Thank you very much for posting this piece. It reassures me that perhaps I’m not quite so much of an outlier.

    Hope all is well with you and Joe.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Linda Silva’s comment reflects what many of us felt on your and Joes last service with us Amy. We miss you both but are happy to see the wonderful world you both have entered into.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you, dear Randy and Dede. We miss you both too. We are so grateful that we are part of God’s family with you wherever we go. We are also grateful to have adventurous and generous people like you as role models and examples. We hope you had a blessed and happy Thanksgiving.


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