When the morning worship service has concluded and before we are blessed to go out and serve Christ in the world, we have … Announcements. Predict them. Most are already listed in the pew leaflet: meeting dates/times, request for volunteers, fundraising, welcome to visitors and invitation to coffee. Nothing shocking, not even a tiny smudge on a white wall.
In the second week of November 2021, while drafting this piece, more huge events rocked the world. New COVID spikes, lockdowns causing violent unrest, a vile unelected strongman callously uses refugees in a nefarious geopolitical move, a major climate conference disappoints. The Gospel reading for Sunday is Mark 13: 1-8. How will this end? Many persons just stop watching /listening to the “News” announcers; too disturbing.
I’d like to stand up in Announcements and confess to occasional moments of dread about “in those days, the birth pangs of the new age.” Will I be quietly ignored? I will not welcome the predictable response, “Quite a world we live in, isn’t it?”
I have been looking at a wall in my office. Scratched up, dented, stained, tape marks, nail holes. The room has had many occupants and uses in its forty-two-year life. That wall bothers me. Shall I sand, prime and paint? Or just paper over it?
Sure, it’s a low, low-grade anxiety. But around and in me, low-grade anxieties are heightening. There is more contentiousness in home, family, staff rooms, neighbourhood, community, and the world. The country to the south of us is becoming a petri dish of rancour.
The parish appears to run smoothly; Anglicans avoid dissension. Is that because we have no diverse opinions or because, though we agree we have them, we choose not to discuss them, at least not openly.
A respected, valued parish member of long standing, a community volunteer par excel lance, makes an Announcement after the service. He speaks clearly, briefly, articulately on a topic that, though of local political debate, has much wider implications. Oh no, some dissension! A dent on a smooth wall.
Where is the right place to express a strong concern to your fellow parishioners? At the lectern? At coffee time? In the pew leaflet? At the annual Vestry?
I’m looking at the cracks in my wall. It’s a strong, weight bearing wall; a testament to the room’s many uses, (pets, guests, storage, poster-loving teenagers with tape and staples.)
Imagine a spectrum: “Not Appropriate “to “Iffy” to “Acceptable” and place the following possible Announcements on it:
· I must express disagreement with the homilist because ...
· I want to say how strongly I agree with the homily in that …
· The Gospel hymn was very hard to sing ...
· The choir has done quite well this time …
· Please all wear a green T-shirt next Sunday because….
· I’d like to promote a local charity you have not heard of….
· Please sign the petition in favour of …
· Rejoice with me, I have a new grandchild.
· Since I’ve hurt my back, I need someone to help me in my garden.
· I am passing the hat for a needy, anonymous parishioner.
· That disturbing Old Testament reading should not be in the Lectionary
· Can we please have the Bibles returned to the pews …
· In the Narthex, cukes and tomatoes from my garden, help yourselves.
· Could the Parish Council please consult the parish on …
· I am inviting you all to share my eightieth birthday; cake downstairs.
What builds up the body? Is some disturbance good? Disagreement is not the same as rancour. How do we encourage reflection and discussion? In a healthy parish, all voices need to be heard. What if there is a prophet amongst us? Prophets are not known for soothing announcements.
Looking at that wall again I’ve decided to leave it as is. Not ignoring it but not fixing it either. No papering over the cracks.