Saturday, 21 April 2012

Making an Entrance

I have been doing some analysis, Dear Readers, of the things that we can learn from the time people turn up to morning worship and the things they do. You've probably noticed that, on the whole, the same people arrive at the same time (or at least you have noticed that if, like me, you're the "head counter", and therefore deem it your role to be the first person to arrive, to count everyone in). It is very much a "work in progress" (and therefore cannot yet be capitalised and written off over five years, which is what I will be aiming for when it is complete), but this is my analysis so far.

For those of you who arrive at precisely one minute after the service starts, I hope this will fill in the details of the preparation that have been going on since when you were still in bed.

T-60 - The head counter, the Person who Unlocks.

T-50 - In fellowships that meet in schools, the Chair Putter-Outers. If there is a Music Group, they will all turn up with the exception of one key person - normally the keyboard player or vocalist.  If a choir, the Organist will arrive, and start complaining that the choir is late.

T-45 the Sunday Club leaders arrive, and start to strap on their protective clothing

T-40 - People with other jobs to do: Book Issuers; Table Arrangers (who should have done it yesterday, really, but were busy with other things); The Church Wardens, Stewards, Deacons or other generally "in charge of godly order" type people - unless they are also Unlockers. People who want to impress the minister by being keen.

T-35 - The person who fills up and switches on the Tea Urn does so. If cups and saucers are to be put out on a trestle table at the back, this may be done now, or else during the latter part of the sermon.

T-30 - Nobody actually arrives at this point, but everybody will start to worry that the worship leader / visiting Preacher / minister isn't going to turn up this week. People will remember the time in 1978 when Old Reverend Methuselah was snowed in.

T-29 - The minister / visiting preacher arrives. Everybody says, with literal accuracy, "For a minute there we thought you weren't going to turn up." The spare Local Preacher / Reader / Warden / Steward growls inwardly, and puts away their special "Emergency Sermon".

T-25 - The Sunday Club leaders finish putting on their protective clothing

T-20 - In the Church of England, the Sidespeople arrive. Since nobody knows what they do, this isn't really important.

T-15 - The older folk who like a chat before the service. Those of an Anglo-Catholic persuasion will normally have this chat while standing next to the sign that says "Talk to God before Mass, and each other afterwards".

T-10 - The last member of the music group / choir arrives. There will be some convoluted reason why they're so late - there always is.

T-8 - In an Anglo-Catholic church, the priest puts on all the clobber so as to be able to stand around prayerfully for a while.

T-5 - The Sunday Club leaders start to think that no children are coming this week.

T-3 - In churches of a more Protestant nature, the Chief Steward or similar will appear out of the vestry, ostensibly to do something like bring the Bible out, or put a glass of water on the ledge in the pulpit. Nobody knows why this can't happen earlier.

T-2 - All the families arrive. At least, all the families without small children. The Sunday Club leaders adopt the "crash" position.

T-1 - In churches of an Anglo-Catholic persuasion, the Priest remembers something important s/he has left in the main building, has to take off all the tat, rush into the church, bow in many directions, grab the missing item, bow in many directions, rush out and put all the tat back on.

T0 - The grand entrance, procession or whatever may take place. In churches of a more dramatic nature, the minister may spring up through a trap door, abseil from the balcony or appear in a flash of smoke.

T+5 The families with small children arrive halfway through the first hymn. The other members of the congregation will tut, and wonder why they can't get there on time. They have forgotten, or else do not know. what it is like to have small children.

T+10 The person who always leaves it to the last minute sneaks in. They may reflect that they need to re-visit the concept of "last minute".

T+30 The person who is secretly test-driving a different congregation with an earlier service turns up, having legged it out from the other place during the last hymn. They will look smug and yet guilty at the same time, as befits one who is better than this place.

T+60 On one Sunday a year, the people who forgot to put their clocks forward arrive. They will join in the last hymn, assuming it's the first, and then wonder why the leader is pronouncing a closing blessing.


  1. Oh Dear, you've been spying on our Benefice. Though the Protestant and Anglo Catholic traditions don't really describe our hybrid mix and mash of people and worship.

    But, in general, I'm one of the early arriver's who get 'lumbered' to do the things others have forgotten or missed. Even one day, being sent out for the milk that the welcome team forgot.

    One day, the Organist forgot to put his clock forward and you can guess the outcome of that. The sung Eucharist became a said service, with some very grumpy choir members decked out in their finery and nothing to do. I offered to play the 'comb' for them, but when they heard my efforts, they decided that I couldn't hold a note and they'd rather just sit and sulk.

  2. T-60 - freakish dawn-service people still in session.
    T-30 - music director panicked because there will be no time to throw together overly complicated, multi-dimensional "special music" at the last minute
    T-29 - freakish dawn-service people finally clear out, musicians flood into sanctuary all vying for warm-up time
    T-20 - music director panics again because the overly complicated music piece is NOT coming together, nor is it "up to St. Paul's Standards". Altar guild frustrated because they can't set up altar due to gaggles of musicians flying around the chancel trying to get ready.
    T-10 - congregation has mostly shown up, musicians are still warming up - unsavvy people think they showed up late.
    T-1 - verger races around to find the acolyte who simply could not "hold it in" and grabs priest who has been waylaid by several parishioners who want to know when he will create a committee to handle some issue only they care about.
    T-0 - music director slides into home base (otherwise known as organ bench) and starts into the intro to the first hymn, still catching his breath from the insanely intense "warm up".

  3. T-50 [...] If a choir, the Organist will arrive, and start complaining that the choir is late.

    I resemble that remark...


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