Keswick '22: Begging Pardon, Raising Hands

On Friday morning, I attended the Keswick Convention. I wanted to inspect their new premises in the old pencil factory and I heard good things about Alistair Begg, their headline ‘Bible Reader’. Bags were searched by security guards as we entered the grounds. I had a large, 150g packet of Balsamic Vinegar & Caramelised Onion Crisps stuffed into a coat pocket; the security guard looked at the bulge but did not trouble to investigate, so the threat may not have been as high after all.

Mr Begg preached very well from 1 Timothy, but I was curious that five phones went off in my vicinity during his sermon. One phone-owner curiously decided to sit it out rather than turn it off, hoping that the answer-phone kicking in would silence the phone, which it did, after the eighth ring. The whole event was like Word Alive, but for grown-ups: stewards in hi-viz, cramped seating, beautiful-looking musicians and the mandatory bookstall recommendations. Despite the frequent distractions, the preaching was helpful and profitable, and Mr Begg elected to close with Psalm 100 sung unaccompanied, to which my inner puritan leaped for joy.

Before the meeting, my companion and I shared a table with a gentleman from the northlands, with whom we exchanged biographical anecdotes and observations. He suggested, as something of a Pentecostal, that he felt an outsider. I probed. He explained that, during the worship, people were not ‘free in the Spirit’. I enquired as to how he knew this, and he offered the fact that so few raised their hands in worship. I explained that, as someone who myself sometimes raises hands in worship, I think I knew why it was less common a phenomenon at Keswick than some of the circles in which he moved. If raising hands drew attention to oneself, distracting others from beholding the Saviour through eyes of faith, then it was a practice best avoided. He seemed to accept my explanation, even considering himself rebuked, which was not my intention.

Worshipping God is an expressive affair- we sing, we read, we pray. And yes, some of us raise our hands. Yet I have previously observed raised hands preventing the rows behind from reading the projected words, impeding the opportunity for others to worship. Is this any better than those five people whose phones kept ringing on Friday morning? In our enjoyment of the Lord, may we not spoil others’ worship.