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Have a go at the Church Times caption competition, and read the latest winner and top entries

29 September 2023

St Edmundsbury Cathedral

Have a go at our next caption competition. Send entries by email only to captioncompetition@churchtimes.co.uk by 9 a.m., Monday 9 October

Have a go at our next caption competition. Send entries by email only to captioncompetition@churchtimes.co.uk by 9 a.m., Monday 9 October

Have a go at our next caption competition (above)Send entries by email only to captioncompetition@churchtimes.co.uk by 9 a.m., Monday 9 October

Here is the winning entry for the previous competition:

ST JOHN THE BAPTIST, COTTEREDStop singing! Listen to me: I’m licensed to preach Stephen Low  

Stop singing! Listen to me: I’m licensed to preach (Stephen Low)  


“STOP getting Bond wrong!” the fictional character Alan Partridge says to friends who misquote the secret agent. Fortunately, our readers recall Bond’s catchphrases accurately: “The choir were so poor that the congregation were quite shaken . . . but not stirred” (Mark Parry); “O Lord, thy touch hath stirred (but not shaken) my soul” (Alison Woods); “The name’s Bond, James Bond. I like my choir shaken but not stirred’’ (Peter Walker); “The new vicar’s sermon left the congregation shaken, but not stirred” (Andrew Berry); “The church singers were shaken but not stirred by the Bishop’s last-minute stand-in” (Jeannie Chamberlain); Shaken, maybe, but not stirred” (Elizabeth Graham).

Although, who knows what Partridge would have made of these plays of words on one of Bond’s most famous films? Licensed to trill” (Catherine Thorp); “The St John the Baptist choristers had a Licence to Trill (Kelley Parker); “The choir impressed their new choirmaster with “a licence to trill” as they competed for the title of ‘Gold Singer’”(Joanna Mash); “‘I’ll take the solo in this Bach piece,’ said Bond. ‘I’ve got a licence to trill’” (Pauline Williams).

There could be only one hymn number at this particular service: “Hymn number 007” (Pearl Davison); “From the pulpit, James Bond announces hymn 007” (Michael Doe); Bond’s favourite hymn was always 007” (Diane Butler); “0-0-7, ‘How good is the Lord’: not the choir’s favourite” (Martin Kettle).

Bond’s appearance in the pulpit was ominous, although it did concentrate the singers’ minds: “The appearance of Mr Bond in the pulpit had a remarkable effect on the choir’s ability to sing the right notes” (Philip Deane); “Taking a loaded pistol into the pulpit seems a funny way of making sure they all sing in tune” (Ray Morris); “The next time someone’s mobile phone goes off, I’ll get shot of them. Literally.(Geoffrey Robinson); “Don’t shoot the pianist, he’s doing his best” (Graham Derriman);It wasn’t quite what the Vicar had had in mind when he’d muttered to his well-connected churchwarden, ‘Will no one rid me of this warbling tenor?’” (Stuart Bell).

A visiting preacher can present a challenge for all involved in the service: “The visiting preacher was keen to start — but the choir was intent on singing the whole of Psalm 119” (Michael Foster); “Even when preaching to the choir, his sermon went over their heads” (John Saxbee); “Having discovered a gold finger in the chancel, the choir burst into the anthem ‘A Quantum of Solace’ by E. Blofeld. It was purrfect for the occasion, though it left the preacher shaken but not stirred” (Mark Johnson); “The preacher had forgotten that it was the 15th evening with all 73 verses of Psalm 78” (Mervyn Cox); “Precaution! The pistol-packin’ preacher in the pulpit is primed to punish poor performance. Play on!” (Alison Rollin); “The disregard of the choir for the sermon had progressed far beyond the exchange of notes and toffees” (Christopher Tookey).

Some other entries that we enjoyed: “The choir could sing ‘We have all the time in the world’, but the verger’s only on until 9 p.m.” (Philip Lickley); “The new Director of Music did not suffer fools gladly” (Patrick Irwin); The congregation sing ‘Glory to God on high,’ watched on by the man from Goldeneye (Angella Willis); “Thank goodness ‘We have all the time in the world’ . . . this choir is going to need it” (Elizabeth Gaskell); “We will now sing: “Bind us together, with a Bond that cannot be broken” (Julian Ashton); “No guesses as to who parked an Aston Martin outside” (Chris Coupe); “The new Bond film, Octopulpit(Matt Jeffrey); “The chair of the diocesan advisory committee was widely known as ‘Dr No’” (John Appleby); Conductor: ‘That bit’s not right — from 007 again, please’” (Lorna Brook); “What’s going on here? I was only halfway through my sermon when this lot started to sing!” (Michael Watts); The bass soloist made full use of the sound from the pulpit” (Richard Hough).

“I said J. S. Bach, not James Bond, you fool!” (David Newman); “Old Mr Jones finally got his wish. A medley of James Bond theme tunes at his funeral” (Gwen Parsons); The hunt to find the next James Bond concludes at St John the Baptist, Cottered. But who from the assembled group will be named 007?” (Anthony Goodger); Congregation, please wait! According to the score, it says choir only for this part” (Valerie Stokes).

As ever, the winner receives a prize of Fair­trade chocolate, courtesy of Divine Chocolate.


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