Stuff I’ve Given Up

October 28, 2013 § 6 Comments

There’s lots of stuff that I’ve never done. Some of it is on principle, I guess. But other stuff I have done, and have stopped doing. hand-stop-2I don’t know what this says about me, but here goes:

Watching, or indeed having anything to do with, Premiership Football.  Three years ago. The money is just obscene. How can we fuss about the ethics of banking when a bog standard striker is on £10m per annum? You get a whole C of E diocese for that. I won’t join in any more.

The Grand National. Ditto – but twenty years ago, after various horses died. In fact I just don’t get horse racing generally, and dislike the aftermath of race meetings (in York and Beverley). It’s just not pleasant.

Reading The Times. Just because it’s Murdoch. I’ve never had Sky, for the same reason. But, I confess, we do get The Sunday Times, because I’m weak and I like Style and Culture.

Watching Downton Abbey. The story, and depiction, of Anna’s rape was just plain wrong. Sorry. No more.

Anything to do with the Horror genre. That’s been a long standing thing. Just don’t like it.

Anything like farce, or the comedy of embarrassment. Just makes me feel uncomfortable.

When Typesetting: Using Comic Sans, centering hymns, using exclamation marks, justifying text, using Times Roman, using Publisher. Just because.

Reading the Daily Telegraph. I used to joke that I read the DT because at least I knew I disagreed with it. But then Damian Thomson wrote something abusive about the C of E, effectively damning every one of its clergy, and I thought ‘I don’t have to pay for the privilege of being abused like this’. I did get a very nice letter from the Letters Editor, Christopher Howse, though, and I miss his bits, including the obituaries.

Wearing any clerical shirt colour other than black. This is a complete turnaround: I vowed before ordination that I would never wear black. Just goes to show.

Words and phrases people should stop using

January 23, 2013 § 9 Comments

…and what they should say instead.

Been away from the ether for a while. Time to ease back in with some light relief.

I used to be an English teacher, and I love playing with language. Words do change, but it saddens me when some get so over-used that they fail to mean anything anymore. I’m not really this bitter, and of course I don’t shout at the radio. But just writing them down makes me feel better. Shout back at me if you want. Or add your own. I’m sure there are more of these

Iconic. Just say ‘special’, or ‘distinctive’. But not ‘unique’ (see below)

(Steep) learning curve. Just say you ‘have a lot to learn’.

Going forward. Just say ‘the future’, or ‘from now on’.

Passionate (as in ‘I am passionate about providing customer service’). ‘Committed’ will do fine.

Overestimate/Underestimate. Or if you do, get it right. They aren’t interchangeable.

(At the beginning of an answer) So. Just don’t use it.

(At the beginning of an answer) I think. Of course you do. That’s why you are about to say what you are about to say.

Imply, when you mean infer. And infer when you mean imply.

Disconnect (as a noun). Don’t know why. It just annoys me.

Mercury (for temperature – a favourite in newspaper weather reporting). Just say ‘temperature’. By the way, why does cold always ‘snap’ and heat always ‘wave’?

Bellweather. Just say barometer. Or indicator. Or predictor.

Multitask. OK, you can do more than one thing at once. Don’t dignify it with jargon.

One hundred and ten percent. Just say ‘totally committed’. Or ‘completely’.

Absolutely. When you mean ‘yes’, or ‘I agree’.

Unique. When you mean ‘special’ or ‘distinctive’. Something isn’t ‘quite unique’.

Free, gratis and for nothing. What’s that about?

Community. When you mean ‘people who are’ or ‘people who like’


That is all. Come to think of it, that’s a phrase to stop using too. Oh dear.

Rules for Reverends – the Xtra Factor

December 21, 2011 § 2 Comments

Greetings Ruleteers. A couple of seasonal ones in this week’s top ten.

111. Christmas happens on December 25th every year. It is amazing the number of times you will not realise this until it’s too late.

112. If you have the NRSV on your smartphone you can update your Facebook status during worship and pretend you’re reading the Bible.

113. There is probably a way of remembering which of your robes is in which of your churches, or your house. If you’ve discovered it, please let the rest of us know.

114. Never be afraid to admit that part of you is in it for the dressing up.

115. There is absolutely no way you can look at your watch when in a deep pastoral situation without the other person noticing.

116. Most church problems are sorted out by the people who know in the car park afterwards. Not worth having the original meeting at all, when you think about it.

117. Visitations are only made by Angels, Archdeacons and the Blessed Virgin Mary. Not all Visitations are the same.

118. At least with Alpha you get food.

119. Everything is fair game as a sermon illustration. Especially your children. They’ll love you for it.

120. Store up the questions that only God can answer on the other side of death. There’ll be plenty of time to get them answered. Or maybe they won’t need to be.

Rules for Reverends: The Next Generation

December 15, 2011 § 2 Comments

Somebody stop me…

101. On paper Carol services look like they are going to be really long, but are shorter than you think.

102. Work out how you respond best to conflict, because there will be some. The Body of Christ is made up of human beings, after all. And the Holy Spirit doesn’t help. Look at Corinth.

103. No, the compilers of the Lectionary didn’t know what they were doing.

104. If you buy a thick cassock because all churches are cold, you will only ever work in warm ones.

105. There is no such thing as a quiet toy.

106. Never overestimate the power of a lone bagpiper to evoke a sense of lament.

107. If your worship group has a drummer, pray that they are the most musical person in the building.

108. People who have worshipped in the same church for decades have rarely looked around it properly. Preach about the windows or a carving. They will be amazed.

109. Church bells must be divine. Humans ring them. God knows why.

110. Don’t mess with the Flower Arrangers.


Rules for Reverends X

December 14, 2011 § 1 Comment

We’ve made it to 100. Should there be more?

91. It’s only when you’re in the pulpit and coughing that you realise you’re not sure whether the jug and glass have been there for five years without being changed.

92. Gardening is only therapeutic when your parishioners can’t see you doing it. When they do they think you’re taking too much time off.

93. Answering machines are superb, but you do need to listen to them.

94. If you need a decent policy for something, ask your friendly Methodists. They’ve got loads of good ones.

95. No surprise is more pleasant than a letter from the Bishop by return.

96. Never underestimate the power of a nun to get conversations going. Especially on public transport.

97. Fill in attendance numbers carefully, and review them year by year. Some trends take time to make themselves felt.

98. Never handle any cash. If you have to, get a witness.

99. People are very coy and very careful about their giving. Be coy and careful back, but make sure they know they are appreciated.

100. Working harder at this job won’t get you any more money. Unless you become a Bishop, a Dean or an Archdeacon. And who wants to be one of them?

Rules for Reverends IX

December 13, 2011 § 2 Comments

Can’t stop now…

81. There is probably a very good reason for Deanery Synods.

82. There will be one key which unlocks the drawer which has all the other keys to the building and safes in it. This key will be in plain sight somewhere.

83. There is nothing clergy like better than following other clergy in a procession. That the one at the front knows where they are going is taken a matter of faith by those behind, and is a proof of the existence of God.

84. Most people’s worst nightmare is a Vicar with a guitar. This situation is helpfully relieved by saying ‘I know. I am your worst nightmare. A Vicar with a guitar’. When tuning up, give them a bit of All right now (Free) or Thunderstruck (AC/DC). It works for me.

85. There is nothing so very wrong with wedding photographers. When there is, do give them some feedback.

86. Take great care over finances, and learn to read a balance sheet. The level of giving as a barometer of the spiritual life of the congregation.

87. Being on the committee of another organisation is a good way of realising that perhaps the PCC isn’t so bad after all. Or recognising that, actually, it is.

88. The law of buffets is that the optimum arrangement of food and plates has not yet been discovered, and that all the other ones are achingly slow.

89. Loud shoes in stone floored churches are much to be encouraged.

90. The contents of the flower cupboard are a mystery, one not to be explored without prayer and fasting.

Rules for Reverends VIII

December 12, 2011 § 1 Comment

Where does this stuff come from?

71. Under no circumstances agree to judge a fancy dress competition where there is any possibility of you meeting any contestant, or any member of their family, during their lifetime.

72. If your church has lots of needy people, it’s probably because it’s doing the right thing. But that doesn’t make it easier to handle.

73. Choristers have to work very hard to make sure they have the right stuff to sing at the right time. They might not, therefore, take in what else is happening in your brilliantly crafted act of worship. Give them some input another way.

74. Some people will never ever be satisfied. Find out who they are, and spend as little time as possible trying to sort things out for them.

75. The preferred communication style of most churches is osmosis and telepathy.

76. Decide which practical things in your church you will know nothing about. This could be how the clock is wound, or the way the boiler works. You do not have to do everything, only the stuff you have to do. Discovering what this is will be your life’s work.

77. Look carefully at the retired clergy around you. Find a happy one, and ask them how they did it. Start planning to do the same. You could be retired a long time.

78. What they don’t teach you at theological college is how to hold a plate and a glass of wine and a fork at the same time. They should.

79. You may not be designed for small talk. Watch a master, and steal three phrases which will help. Asking people about themselves is a good starter.

80. There might be loads of clergy at the cathedral, but they do work hard. It’s just different to what you do.

Rules for Reverends VII

December 11, 2011 § Leave a comment

On a roll…

61. The length of a PCC discussion about money will be in inverse proportion to the amount discussed.

62. No, the Diocese does not know what it is doing.

63. If you want something to thrive, threaten to abolish it.

64. Some organisations do die. Give them an honourable and joyful funeral.

65. It is impossible to overestimate the impact on your ministry of using clear consonants and not dropping your voice at the end of a sentence.

66. Just because the microphone is there doesn’t mean everyone will automatically hear you.

67. The notice sheet exists so that people can happily ignore its contents.

68. If you can’t be omniscient you can give the impression of being omnipresent. And you don’t have to stay to the end.

69. If the whole team is last minute you’ll get on well with each other and your church will learn what faith is all about.

70.Yes, it’s frustrating not to be able to join in at Choral Evensong. Just let go, and let the office pray you.

Rules for Reverends VI

December 8, 2011 § 3 Comments

Getting going now…do let me know if these chime or if I’m just going mad.

51. Some people have very noisy coats

52. The tiptoeing thing people do when they are late into church doesn’t work.

53. When you go to see the Bishop about your future, bear in mind that he might have said his prayers that morning. But then again, he might just have a gap to fill.

54. You drink more Communion wine than anyone else. You owe it to yourself to make it decent.

55. The Press has a memory shorter than a goldfish, and works on whims and timescales more rapid than a toddler in a toyshop. You will not change this.

56. No church hall booking system ever works.

57. Common Worship was written so that people previously at enmity with each other could have something to moan about together.

58. No one is ever happy about car parking arrangements.

59. Account very carefully for special collections, and write within nano seconds to the donor and recipient.

60. People who light a candle when they say a prayer are not being superstitious. The Holy Spirit is helping them with sighs too deep for words.

Rules for Reverends V

December 6, 2011 § Leave a comment

Seem to have started something here – a few more then.

41. No Year 1 assembly will survive if you mention the word ‘Christmas’.

42. You can always tell a Bishop but you can’t tell him much.

43. Services are better when planned with other people. Your week will be better if you don’t have as many meetings. In the middle of this tension God is to be found.

44. Each one of your parishioners is made in God’s image. You just need to look harder at some of them.

45. Annual Parochial Church Meetings would be enlivened if people could be voted off rather than on. But you might be first.

46. The person at your door asking for money and food might be a prophet. But they just be dangerous and frightening to your family and you have to be careful.

47. The recycled sermon you use in desperation will be the only one someone remembers from the first time.

48. All pews are sacred.

49. Sending a text at the right time can be a deeply pastoral act.

50. Hardly anyone will refuse if you offer to pray for them.

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