Joys & Sorrows? Nah, let’s call it Sunday-Morning Smackdown!

I preached the UN Sunday service today.  I offered to do it on purpose, as it is one of the few pieces of the UU liturgical calendar that I never (and I mean never) connected with, so I wanted to hear the kind of UU service that would inspire me.

We could have done a story for the “Story for all Ages” today, but instead, my friend Peter taught the congregation to sing our version of the doxology in four-part harmony.  And it worked!  It was really beautiful–at least from my vantage point behind the pulpit.  I prayed aloud, even though we call it “spoken reflection” but I felt that I had answered a need that had been spoken by others, to include an element such as this.  The sermon?  It could have been tighter, could have been more book-y. 

But, the experience I had hoped to craft for our members and that new family of visitors I didn’t know would be there was sabotaged by someone with an ax to grind and a microphone. You expreienced UU ministers and lay people, you know what I’m about to say, don’t you.  Yep, we got hit by the Joys & Sorrows train. 

Two weeks ago, when another member of our congregation (and not even what I would call a lay “leader” but just a member) was in the pulpit, a different congregant took the opportunity to use Joys & Sorrows to lambast the congregation, the minister, and maybe even the minister’s cat.  This happened exactly one week after we, as a congregation, grappled with the death of one of our own.  Mostly, we were still raw, and here we were, in our safe place, being taken to task in that way, making everything, much much much much much more grating.

So guess what?  Today, while I’m in the pulpit, a different congregant does the same thing.  It may have only been one minute, maybe only two, probably more like 4, but in any event it sucked the energy right out of the service.

I know, if I were asking for advice, y’all would tell me: drop the damn joys and sorrows part of the service.  (There are other ways of doing it, I know, but this one, this one seems the most practical to me.)  I’m not asking for advice, though.  I’m just venting and feeling sorry for myself, but more than that, feeling sorry for those who came to worship today.  Perhaps the opportunity was there.  Perhaps the sermon that I spent most of yesterday crafting (because this is NOT my day job) did bubble back up.

Here’s what I wanted to do: I wanted to create an experience that would let people leave feeling informed and inspired.  The music was great–we sang three hymns (though some in our church only want to sing two), as well as the doxology experiment (which rocked), and the choir sang “Woyaya” at my request (which TOTALLY rocked!). 

  • Music and readings selected to invoke mood conducive to worship?  Check, check. 
  • Sermon crafted for same?  check. 
  • Words written to introduce the Offering that inspired people to be generous? Check-ish (I don’t know how generous people were). 
  • Words written to introduce the Joys and Sorrows section explicitly stating what sort of joys should be shared and explicitly asking people to be mindful of time? Check and check.
  • Angry people actually listening to those well-crafted words?  Not so much.

If only I could control people as well as I control words.

No advice sought, honest to goodness.  I really just needed to vent.  Oh, I know, I’ll save it for Joys and Sorrows next Sunday—shouldn’t be a problem, it’s only Visitor’s Sunday.  Check!

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About TinaLBPorter

I write poetry and blog at www.tinalbporter.com. And I'm thrilled to be writing with you.
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9 Responses to Joys & Sorrows? Nah, let’s call it Sunday-Morning Smackdown!

  1. Pingback: Modern Love Notes « uuMomma

  2. uuMomma says:

    ms kitty: NEXT time? You think I’m gonna do THIS again? But thanks,

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  3. mskitty says:

    Hey, Momma, an awful lot of ministers would be as tongue-tied as you were under the circumstances. It’s a hard situation to handle. Next time you’ll know! That’s how we all learned it.

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  4. jacqueline says:

    Ok… not to sound all zen… but isn’t the venting just part of the course of things. Let them get it off their chest and move on. If you stifle them and quite J&C then you could be missing out on some really lovely moments.

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  5. angela says:

    Not that I have any experience in UU churches, because I don’t (though I hope to soon). But I totally get where you’re coming from on that Joys & Sorrows thing. I’ve been in Al-Anon for twenty-some years now, and we’re always trying to get people (particularly newcomers) to focus on the JOY of things, and stop doing SO MUCH WHINING. My mother tells them (pardon my French) that “it doesn’t matter how the horse’s ass got IN the mud, let’s try to figure how we’re going to get it OUT.” The other commenter is right. Someone (other than you) needs to take this woman aside and open with some form of the “horse’s ass” thing. This person needs her energy focused toward the solution rather than the suffering. Then maybe the next time she takes the mic, it’ll be a more pleasurable experience for everyone.
    Just my .02.
    By the way, I really enjoy your blog. =)

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  6. uuMomma says:

    Thanks to all of you for your wishes and kind thoughts. This post may disappear later. I’m not sure how appropriate it was to vent thusly, so don’t be surprised if it does.

    Of course, if I were a real minister, knowing what to do would have come to me at 11:15 a.m. on Sunday rather than at 4:03 a.m. Monday. It would have been much more healthy for us all if I had, with kindness, walked down from the pulpit to the woman with the mic, wrapped my arm around her while disarming (can you tell I’m listening to Harry Potter as I drive to work?) her of the mic, and said “i’m so sorry this happened to you, can we talk about this further during coffee hour?” She would have been heard, the congregation would have seen some restorative action on the part of the church, and I could have kept the rampage from taking over the rest of the day. Hindsight ain’t just 20/20, sometimes I think its the sight of the divine. If only we could all be perfect all the time!

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  7. Oh, my. Been there, done that, and you have my sympathy. Our worship committee has recently made a couple changes, but the open mike style brings out the worst in people. Is there someone who can – and is willing to – speak to the offender(s) about inappropriate behavior in church?

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  8. Kim Hampton says:

    I am so sorry that happened to you.

    It’s so hard to see something you love just derail because of something you could not control. I do hope though, that you don’t do too much questioning of yourself in this. Let the checklist you have in your post be it. Otherwise you will drive yourself crazy.

    May the next time you do a service go as smoothly as this one should have.

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  9. Jess says:

    Oh, so sorry. And I feel your pain!!

    Hubby rewrote the service-leader-assistant script for his brand new church, specifically excluding the part where they used to ask visitors to stand, and the board members keep adding it right back in and not reading the visitor text he worked over to make the church seem more hospitable. That and the half-hearted clapping for every musical event and I’m fuming by the end of the service, trying not to be too obvious about it. 😉 Luckily, he has been able to pretty much kill Joys and Sorrows from the getgo — transitions in leadership are a great excuse.

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