7th May 2021

Confession time! I have broken the rules – or at least one rule. A man came to do some work at our house, and did a very good job. As he left I shook hands with him. Afterwards I realised I shouldn’t have done that, it’s against the pandemic rules.

Shaking hands is one of the things I have missed most, especially the greeting by a deacon when we arrive at church and with the minister as we leave. Shaking hands has an especial place in our Baptist life – when a new member is welcomed he or she is offered ‘the right hand of fellowship’. It’s a bit like the bishops’ apostolic succession – each one is consecrated by one who was consecrated by an earlier one and so on back to the apostles – at least that’s the theory!

Some people, having shaken hands with someone important say they don’t want to wash their hands afterwards (but eventually they do!) and others ask to shake their hand in turn, as if some benign virus is passed on. In the 1920s (before even my time!) there was a popular song: ‘I danced with a man who’s danced with a girl who’s danced with the Prince of Wales’ – same idea.

No – there’s nothing magic about the handshake, but it is symbolic of our friendship and fellowship and it’s the demonstration of that which we miss. But let’s not lose the reality even if we can’t enjoy the symbolism.

David T Roberts