Of priests, and their bossy, controlling nature
The Topmost Apple has had it.
It was nice – except the Vicar/Officiant/Capo-di-Capi really has no idea how to sing Evensong. He flatted the third note of the Suffrages/Verses – every single time – even though the rest of us kept on singing the major third. Totally oblivious – and totally bizarre; we kept looking at each other with these expressions of amused disbelief.
And then there was this:
OK, but here’s the clincher. Towards the end of the service – I can’t remember exactly during which prayers – there’s a “Let us pray,” at which point the leaflet clearly and plainly says “the congregation kneels.”
So naturally he just had to announce it this way: “Let us pray remain standing.” We are even forbidden to kneel during Lent, it appears.
I’m really very totally sick of bossy, controlling priests at this point; how come so many seem to be that way? I thought the clergy were supposed to tend their parishioners’ spiritual lives, not rip them to shreds to satisfy their own tastes?
A couple of things. First, I agree with much of what you say. There are too many bossy, controlling priests. But, sadly, there are also too many bossy, controlling lay people.
Among clergy, musicians are not exactly known for their gentle, easy-going dispositions. I can say that, having been a professional church musician for two decades prior to ordination. On the other hand, too many clergy do seem to misuse their power due to “control issues.” I don’t know why, and I don’t know how to fix it.
On the second point, I’m a fan of kneeling, especially during Lent. I’d have been annoyed at this impromptu change. I loathe extra words tossed into liturgy. The common one is “standing, let us pray” or “kneeling, let us pray” at the postcommunion prayer. These words are almost never necessary. Hand gestures, notes in the bulletin, or common sense will usually do the trick. Too many liturgical leaders feel the need to explain things that simply need no explanation. So I’m right with you on that one.
Finally, I’m sorry the priest wrecked the suffrages. Maybe he has a lousy ear. Maybe he was sloppy. That stinks, especially in the midst of a nice evensong. I feel your pain. But here we part ways. You say, “we kept looking at each other with these expressions of amused disbelief.” I’ll put it simply. A liturgical leader should never do that. Ever. Period. As choir members, you have a sacred trust to inspire the congregation with your song and to lead God’s people in worship. Looks of “amused disbelief” are not part of the game plan.
As a musician, I kept my poker face through many a lousy sermon or badly chanted prayer. As a priest, I’ve kept my poker face through musical train wrecks and sundry liturgical disasters. If I had seen your choir and their looks of amused disbelief, I would have told you never to do that again, if you intended to sing in the church. If I, as a priest, mess something up, tell me after worship. Write me a letter. Gather signatures for a petition. Phone the vestry. But, for the love of God, do not exchange looks of “amused disbelief” during worship. There. Call me a bossy, controlling priest. Or call me someone who cares about worship, possessed of a desire reverently to bring God’s people a foretaste of the heavenly banquet.