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Let It Out

Three young women with different expressions of shock, joy, and skepticism. Blog title reads, "Let It Out."

What emotions are acceptable at church?

Obviously, sad is a viable emotion, as churches are often the setting for funerals and memorial services. Taciturn is also a welcome emotion, taking very seriously the reality of sin and evil, as well as its attendant consequences. Joy is also a huge component of a church’s emotional expression. Easter and Christmas alone bring joy to the top of the list.

What emotions are acceptable at church?

That depends on your definition of “acceptable.” Acceptable could be something decided on by the community, changing as the community does. Acceptable could be something decided on an individual basis, where each person defines their limits. Acceptable can also be something decided by the past, leaving everyone beholden to traditions that have defined acceptability for generations. The Church is so often subject to that third definition.

You see this when a child gets shushed for giggling too loudly during worship. You see this when someone is chastised for being angry at someone’s behavior. You see this when a pastor is described as “un-pastoral” for expressing anger or not being serious enough.

By defining the limits of acceptable emotions to be limited to the past, then we’re fundamentally failing to fulfill our mission as a church. Because the ministry we share is something that encompasses our entire beings. When we stifle emotions, we’re cutting parts of ourselves off from the body.

This Sunday, we’ll have a space to lament. And while sadness is usually welcome, lamentation can sometimes be too disruptive to be welcome.

Just as we’ll have space to lament, we should also remember to leave space for other emotional expressions that we’ve previously deemed unacceptable. There are many churches that discourage applause after a particularly moving piece of music. Why stifle this reaction? There are churches that want children to go to their own separate space if they are playing too loudly. Why would we cut ourselves off from that experience? There are churches where anger, even if directed at injustice and oppression, is seen as being mean. Why would we silence prophetic rage? There are churches where confusion or doubt is met with derision and looked at as faithlessness. Why would we deny ourselves that chance to grow?

I suppose it’s worth mentioning that this isn’t prompted by any incident or recent observation. This Sunday’s reading from Lamentations (as well as the fact that I’m going to see Inside Out 2 this Friday) led me to think about the ways that we’ve bottled ourselves up because our emotions are seen as unacceptable.

I hope (and sense) that we are a community that allows people to express themselves fully.

Melancholy, languor, giddiness, disappointment, fury, foreboding, exultance, boredom, enthrallment, pensiveness, zeal, anticipation, and everything in between. Bring all of these things and more to share with this community. Don’t be afraid of your emotions. You are fearfully and wonderfully made, in all times and circumstances.


Rev. Jeff Fox-Kline


Join us this Sunday as we share our thoughts and emotions with one another. Our worship service starts at 10:00 a.m. and everyone is welcome! Twelve Corners Presbyterian Church is located at 1200 S. Winton Road in Rochester, NY in the Town of Brighton. If you're unable to join us in person, you can also join our livestream on YouTube. If you have any questions or would like more information about our church, you're welcome to call our office at 585-244-8585 or send an email through our secure contact form.


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