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Out of the question: If thanked, say ... ?

05 August 2008

What is the appropriate response to the words “Thank you for coming,” often spoken by clergy to members of the departing congregation? Is it likely that such words would be spoken at the door of a Hindu temple, a gurdwara, or a mosque?

For a normal act of worship, such as communion, matins, or evensong, or even “Family Worship”, the words are obviously inappropriate.

Every act of worship is the proper human response to our living and awesome God. Those who attend are behaving properly, and should be thanking the church for provid­ing the opportunity. It is horrend­ous to think that the clergy might believe themselves to be speaking on behalf of a God who is grateful for being worshipped. It implies that the clergy are merely inviting people to worship instead of pointing to a duty, privilege, and means of fulfil­ment. It implies that attendance, too, is merely an affirmation of the cleric’s position.

The appropriate response might be: “I didn’t know that you had invited me.” But probably a more tactful answer would be: “Thank you for presiding at the worship, which I found fulfilling.” On the same basis, the cleric might say fare­well with: “I hope that you found the worship fulfilling.”

I regret that I am not sufficiently aware of the basis on which Hindus, Sikhs, and Muslims attend their acts of worship, but I cannot believe that they are very different.

Christopher Haffner (Reader)
East Molesey, Surrey

Rather than thank people for coming, I say nothing, and hope for constructive feedback. The response I most frequently receive is some­thing akin to: “Thank you very much. I did enjoy your [my italics] service/sermon.” This is often followed by an apology for having used the word “enjoy”, perhaps even with an added: “I shouldn’t have said that, should I? We’re not here to enjoy ourselves.”

I gently remind them that the service/sermon is theirs as well as mine, and that Jesus is quoted as saying, “I have spoken to you that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be complete.” When appro­priate, I might expand this along the lines: “We come here to gain a clearer vision of God and of what it means to be the people of God. If we have been truly open to that tremendous and glorious truth, it cannot help but breed an unshakeable joy, whatever life’s circumstances may be.”
(The Revd) Peter Dodson
Ripon, North Yorkshire


In the Book of Enoch it is written that Noah prophesied of “the oblique movement of the earth” at the time of the deluge. What is meant by that? D. P.

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