How can I (a clergy widow, and therefore in an awkward
position to comment) encourage our Rector to conduct the only
service on a Sunday which is a eucharist with dignity? He is
unconcerned about how the altar is dressed; his cassock-alb is very
creased, and dirty, as are his shoes; but the most upsetting part
of the service, taken at a gallop, is that after he takes communion
to a disabled lady at the back of the church, he walks back to the
sanctuary, munching the remaining consecrated wafers on the
It is probable that this clergy widow's understandable concerns
about the undignified and irreverent conduct of her Rector are
shared by other members in the congregation. If this is the case,
it would be advisable and effective if a small delegation, with a
written summary of grievances, went to the churchwardens to enlist
Granted the delicate circumstances, this joint procedure would
be easier than a one-to-one confrontation with the Rector, and
certainly the issues are of such significant importance in the
worship life of the parish to warrant reference to those who are
elected to be "foremost in representing the laity", and who should
use their office to "maintain order and decency in the church . . .
especially during the time of divine service" (Canon E1).
With a memorandum from those genuinely upset by the casual and
slovenly way in which their parish priest conducts the Sunday
eucharist, the churchwardens will be completely within their rights
to raise matters with him and offer practical suggestions to
eliminate the causes for complaint - such as the appointment of a
reliable person as sacristan, to be responsible for laundering the
priest's cassock-alb, and for correctly setting up the altar for
the eucharist to be celebrated with greater dignity.
The Rector would need to be frankly told that his unfortunate
practice of consuming consecrated wafers is offensive to
worshippers, and in future should be delayed until the end of the
service - as the rubric allows - and performed unobtrusively and
(Canon) Terry Palmer
We have a hard-working and cheerful team of priests and Readers.
Over the past year or so, an elderly worshipper continually
complains that our sermons are too long: he would like no more than
five minutes, or none at all. . . How should we answer this
complaint politely, but presenting the value of a thoughtful
Sermon feedback is useful. Convene a meeting of people to
discuss what they find helpful and unhelpful, and suggest
improvements. If they favour the status quo, suggest to your
complainant that he brings a book to read during the sermon.
(Canon) John Goodchild, Liverpool
Invite the parishioner for a meeting over a cup of tea. Give
full attention to the difficulties he is having, and ensure that he
realises that you fully grasp the points he is making.
Explain that the 15-minute sermon helps others, is liked, and is
staying. Ask how you can work together to reduce the problem.
Perhaps during the sermon he could go and see what the Sunday
school are up to; pray in the Lady chapel; or read the Bible in
Listen out for what is really behind the complaint - perhaps
arthritis, which makes it uncomfortable to sit for so long; or a
hearing problem. Is there a background worry that surfaces during
that time? When did the 15-minute sermon become a problem? What
other problems were around at the time? Where does the
complainant's anger really belong? Or is it sadness or fear?
Reassure him that there have always been difficult times in
Christian congregations, but that we always sort them out
(Mrs) Geraldine Pedroza
What became of the war-memorial choir stalls of St
Edmund's, Northampton, with the names of the parish's Fallen, when
the church was demolished in the early 1970s? K. K.
How can God be Jesus's Father and Jesus be God's Son if
God and Jesus are the same person?
Out of the Question, Church Times, 3rd floor, Invicta
House, 108-114 Golden Lane, London EC1Y 0TG.