caption competition

14 February 2007

The new branch of Thurifers Anonymous was launched in a blaze of obscurity John Lloyd

When the incense ran out, all they had to do was say the words: “lay presidency” to Father Gregory  Mike Butterworth

The fact that the bishop was a woman was concealed by the censer Robin Saunders

A READER has asked whether we might explain some of the photographs we use for this competition. It’s a fair point, especially after we maligned a group of choirboys in the last competition: they were simply moving a display of beer cans to make more space for carol-singing. The present competition shows the Pope with a thurible.

Scores of entries again, a good few of them variations on “Holy Smoke!” Plenty of more imaginative entries, however, among them: “Dramatic book launch for pop-up version of The Cloud of Unknowing” (Arthur Hack); “That’s right, bishop: keep inhaling and it will clear in no time” (Peter Meloy); “Hurry up and say grace, so we can all get started on the crispy duck and steamed pancakes” (Clare Falconer); and “It needn’t be hell with Nicotinell” (Darryl Hall).

Entries came from people who clearly should not be allowed anywhere near a working altar: “Next time we run short of incense, tell me. Do not use Johnson’s Baby Powder” (Muriel Nichols); “The apprentice thurifer met with some limited success in attempting the Cloud of Unknowing trick” (Richard Strudwick); and “There was disappointment at the chapter supper when the fondue boiled dry” (Jon Soper).

Apologies to the Archbishop of Canterbury. Even when we leave him out of the picture, he stays in readers’ minds: “During the outdoor mass, a gust of wind completely restyled Rowan’s beard” (Charles Taylor); “Really, Rowan, I warned you not to blow-dry your beard just before the service” (A. Swanborough); “Rowan Williams was so busy being Archbishop, he quite forgot to get a haircut” (Mary Hawkins); “Druid or not, you’re still the Archbishop, and I say that beard has gone too far” (Alec Ryrie); and “The Archbishop’s beard was trying to escape again” (Wendy Aird). Best of this bunch was from Martin Kettle: “To the TV audience, Archbishop, those remarks may appear a little nebulous.”


Liz Breuilly send a batch of suggestions, among them: “I warned you not to rub that lamp before the end of the liturgy”; “Anglo-Catholics are fuming over the proposals for women bishops”; and “The most serious case of clergy burn-out yet recorded.” But Jane Sigrist scored the highest number of entries (19), among which were: “Bob had devised his own method for coping with the Peace”; “The preparations for Ash Wednesday were getting a teensy bit out of control”; “Hypostasis in action”; “Top runner in the Church Times Green Awards: energy-saving in church buildings section”; and “O let it freely burn, ’til earthly passions turn to . . . cough, cough — Look, are you sure trying this Godly Play business in the family service is the best use of our resources?

And still they came: “Papal Inflammability?” from Neil Vigers; “Love your dress, honey, but your purse is on fire” from Paul MacCarty; “Quick, Frodo! Throw it in!” from Aaron Orear; and “The new Doctor Who was to prove more orthodox than his predecessor” from Roly Bain.

We liked: “When evil Uncle Abanazar rubbed the lamp, he did not expect the Spanish Inquisition,” from Peter Mott; “Not the exploding thurible gag again!” from Phil Rowett; and “Are you sure this will work on the Archbishop of Nigeria? It didn’t on Fidel Castro” from Stephen Disley.

Punch-drunk after so many fine entries, we found ourselves selecting three entries for the fairtrade chocolate prize, kindly donated by Divine (

Have a go at our next competition (below).

 Entries to arrive by 23 February. Send your suggested caption by email to:

Have a go at our next competition (below).

 Entries to arrive by 23 February. Send your suggested caption by email to:

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