Saturday, 29 December 2012

A Quick Seasonal Reminder to Church Leaders

To all ministers (lay or ordained, pastoral, worship-leading, preaching or otherwise) - a quick reminder.


I know many of you will have been wandering around unsure what day it was, due to having too many services on Monday and/or Tuesday. Especially if you're an unpaid church-leader-type person, you may well have had the week off work ever since, and - with the familiar school / work / dole office / post office cycles absent, it's easy to get confused. After all, with all the "TV Classics" you'll have seen over the last few weeks, you may well believe it's 1974. Even the normal TV programmes will have been off their schedules. And even those church ministers who've had the odd funeral/visit over the last few days will have lose touch on the actual day of the week. Well, it's Sunday tomorrow and, with the exception of those paid clergy types who head for the nearest sea or airport as soon as the Mass of the Dawn is finished Christmas Day, you're going to have to go into the 8am /9.30 /10am /11.30 / Evensong or all of the above in some cases, and do whatever it is you do.

Now, doing things right in Church is going to seem a bit strange after all the Christingles, 9 Lessons and Chickens and Solstice Singalongs. So here's a quick check list for you to try and help you adjust:

1.  If leading worship in a more formal setting, you should ideally be wearing some kind of typically worship-leading gear (smart suit / dog collar / chasuble / that kind of thing). Except in certain extreme forms of Fresh Expression, a onesie in the form of Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer is almost certainly wrong.

2. Before taking too much care over number (1), just make sure you know who you are, so you can get the dress code right. If you've a posh, commanding voice but a secret need to be loved, you're probably the vicar. If you're going to be preaching your sermon of the year, which you've been working on since last New Year, you're a Lay Preacher and the regular minister is off for their post-Xmas break. If you've a frustrated urge to thrown people out of church, you'll be a steward or Churchwarden. If the latter, the onesie's probably fine.

3. If you turn up and nobody else does, don't panic. Check the plan / rota / smartphone calendar. It's possible that everyone else has simply taken the day off because they've nothing official to do (see number 10). In which case, rejoice that millions of millions of angels, saints and martyrs are still joining you. But figure they probably won't need your sermon - they're in a much better position to judge the rights and wrongs of things than you are, and won't need your advice.

4. If you're in the right church, you can hear singing, but you can't see anybody in the congregation, you're probably facing the wrong way. This kind of confusion can set in at this time of year.

5. Try not to express too much delight that "now we can all get back to normal". People like wonder, special-ness and awe, and many don't like the magic to stop. Normal's OK, but you can have too much of it.

6. The Three Kings should be 47% of the way from the box where they're kept to the Crib. If this means they're creeping up the aisle like Weeping Angels, all the better. Tell the congregation not to blink. And especially to keep their eyes open during the sermon.

7. If you're down to preach, it may be impossible to work out what has been transferred where, and what the lectionary is trying to tell you. Try and produce something generic, cheerful and still-Christmassy as a sermon. Unless your church is dedicated to St Thomas Becket, or St Stephen, and you've decided tomorrow's the day, in which case don't.

8. Carols are still fine. Of course, after the last week, you'll be down to the ones nobody knows in a desperate search for novelty.Instead why not just try switching the tunes? "O Little Town of Bethlehem" to the tune of "House of the Rising Sun", for example - or "While Shepherds Watched" to "The Yellow Rose of Texas".

9. Try not to start drinking until lunchtime. You may have been starting with a quick G&T for breakfast since Boxing Day, but now's the time to show a bit of restraint.

10. Of course, if you have no official role in church, you can probably give yourself the day off. It's been a long week.


  1. We have a single BCP 8am tomorrow. This is designated as a 'Benefice Service' so we expect a three line whip across the five churches.

    We will be taking a roll call and absentee's will receive a stiff letter from the Church Wardens reminding them of their duty to attend and that the Book of Common Prayer, remains the one, legally sanctioned Prayer Book for the Church of England - so get with it!

    As our Vicar is about to be translated to greater things (well a bigger church at least) we will be saying farewell to him (well some of us might be saying other things) and the timing of the service for 8am seems to have been designed to ensure that only the malcontents and traditionalists attend - so it should be a rousing send off.

    And, for the first time ever, the Organist will rouse themselves before 0930 to play some BCP like Hymns - We have a few copies of Hymns Ancient and Modern circa 1845 still in the Vestry.

    And all are expected to be wearing Choir Dress, Clergy or Lay to show their loyalty to the traditions of the church.

    1. Sometimes I wonder which is a surreal religious community intended with satirical content, and which reality.

  2. For us its a 9.30 DIY with me leading so thanks for the hints (I think)

    1. No worries. Just don't wear a onesie.

  3. I am wearing pink flannel pyjamas with little reindeer all over them... But then as all the little darlings in Sunday School will still be playing with Death Race Chainsaw Massacre on their X-boxes or whatever I have skived off this morning and am safely at home with a pint of tea. If anyone has brought Death Race Chainsaw Massacre to the 10.15 they can play it in the Neville Chapel.

  4. No,no - everybody knows that the only possible tune for "While shepherd's watched" is "On Ilkley Moor bah t'at!" And we had a Circuit Service today but didn't go as we weren't on duty and Himself has man flu.


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