Monday, August 24, 2015

Thanks

I am mainly talking to church leaders here but feel free to overhear.

Do you think we should stop for more than a second to consider the idea of not thanking someone because there are others who will get upset if they are not thanked?

Are there people in your church - long-standing members indeed - who have heard so little about what it is to be a Christian that they will waste emotional time and energy on being upset if they are not thanked?

I think of two recent examples where this had a devastating effect. In the first we were coming to the end of an induction service and the new priest was giving the notices. He chose to thank people who had contributed in any way. In any way. After five minutes we were listening to his gratuitude for the people who had built the church in the fiteenth century and were wondering if the guy who serviced the office photocopier was feeling miffed at not being singled-out. Then I spotted the priest's face. Clearly he had stepped off the edge of his notes and was now plumetting to a place where he could not face the idea of his ministry beginning with an overlooked unthanked person anywhere. We got out alive but the tea was cold.

Secondly, there is a church I know where the leadership have forbiden any people assisting with communion from offering the cup to anyone by name. This is, apparently, because it is embarrassing for those who are not addressed by name. They will feel left out. Christians are particularly good at guessing how others might feel about certain things and missing by miles.

So let me say this to members of the various churches where I serve:
  • I will usually thank lots of people after a service, event or programme but inevitably I will not get round everyone. Read nothing into this.
  • From time to time I will be rushing to get somewhere else and won't have time to do thanks. Read nothing into this.
  • Occasionally I will have so many people to thank I simply issue a general thank-you. Read nothing into this.
  • I will forget some names sometimes. Read nothing into this.
  • I will single out some people on some occasions for particular thanks. Read nothing into this.
In the same way as the workers in the vineyard didn't notice anything wrong with the terms and conditions of their employment until someone came along who apparently got a better deal so let us all work happily without acknowledgement and not be freaked out at the point where someone else gets acknowledged.

Any day you are not crucified is a good day. Everything else is a bonus.



3 comments:

Ray Barnes said...

Brilliant last sentence. Oh, and the post was quite good too.

Doug Chaplin said...

I have to say, I agree with the not using names of some (but not all) at the administration. It's a moment when you as minister (lay or ordained) need to be self-effacing in conveying the gift of God to whom we are are all equal. Everyone should be administered to with exactly the same words, IMO, in order to reflect the radical equality of receiving the gift of Christ.

St said...

I prefer to use the names of all. This means only newcomers who I haven't greeted personally, or people I have forgotten, are not named. I sometimes ask people their names then and there. I agree with your theology Doug but I do it by all sharing in one bread not one wording. One of our key values is inclusivity - we include you by name at the earliest possible moment.