You want to know what makes PeaceBang really upset and cranky and sometimes just plain furious? Well, she’s going to tell you, of course, so pull up a tuffet and get a cup of tea.
Look. We are heirs and stewards of ancient rituals, and there is a power and majesty in those rituals that can only be maintained when the people leading them are mature and responsible in their work. Too often, this maturity is jettisoned in favor of sloppy bonhomie, as if it’s uncool to take church too seriously, you know, because someone might get the impression that religion matters to us.
It just fries my grummies when I attend a rite of passage where the clergy or lay leaders are stumbling around not knowing where to stand or how to use a mic, or kidding around and making snarky or insecure asides in front of the congregation. LEAVE IT FOR THE REHEARSAL (if there is one — and it’s not a bad idea for complicated services). Keep it in the shower at home. It’s not funny, it’s not sexy, and it doesn’t make you seem cool, it makes you seem sloppy and foolish. God kills a kitten every time a minister gets up during, say, an ordination and interrupts the flow of the service with a sarcastic aside. How dare you inject the contents of your neurotic, chattering mind into the consciousness of those who are there to faithfully worship?
There is no excuse for this!
Boy, PeaceBang is really working up a froth, can you tell?
If you are the clergyperson responsible for these worship services, please put on your Authority Pants as you plan. Communicate to each and every participant the expectation that decorum will be observed on this occasion. Who cares if they think you’re an uptight control freak? You’re not there to win Miss Liturgical Popularity, your job is to ensure that the worship service is beautiful, coherent, well-paced, and dignified.
This doesn’t mean that no one can smile or laugh or be relaxed. It means that they be absolutely prepared to know where to stand, where and when to speak, to come with remarks or prayers or ordinances prepared and internalized so there is no fumbling around which leads to embarrassment, which leads to diarrhea of the mouth, which leads to disrupting the service and undermining the spiritual intensity of the event.
If the stole goes on crooked while you’re putting it over the ordinand’s head, straighten it out in silence. If the water for the baptism splashes on the floor a bit, don’t joke about going swimming later. If the groom sneezes three times in succession, that is not your cue to turn to the congregation and make a big haw-haw about Ebola, or some other “look at me” joke. You may smile broadly, you may chuckle a moment as you hand him a handkerchief, but you do not break character and you do not destroy the moment out of discomfort.
If you study liturgy well (and newbies, this is especially for you), you will find that there are natural and comfortable places of transition during which you may handle things a bit more lightly (inviting the ordinand to the pulpit to receive the Charge To the Minister, for instance), but there is never an appropriate time for uttering distracted little asides about the darned lapel mic that won’t stay clipped to your stole (hold it with your hand and keep mum about the technical difficulties) or quippy little murmurings about how out of breath you are from walking up to the chancel. One of the major problems with these asides, apart from the fact that they are distracting and inappropriate and damaging to the integrity of ritual, is that they are never well-enough enunciated for everyone to hear you. So in addition to puncturing the balloon being held aloft by the Holy Spirit, you have just caused at least one third of those present to mutter to the person sitting next to them, “WHAT DID HE JUST SAY?”
Manage the moment, moment to moment.
Manage and govern yourself.
If it’s your service to plan and lead, make it your strict business to communicate explicit instructions and expectations to every participant so as to minimize or totally avoid sloppy, distracting asides.
And make sure your Authority Pants are ironed and hemmed to the appropriate length.