Ecclesiastical Pet Peeves

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Because of the great response to last week’s article Grammatical Pet Peeves I thought I might as well continue the general topic. So this week’s focus is Ecclesiastical Pet Peeves.

Essentially, I’m writing this week about matters that are distracting or otherwise detrimental to the Christian worship experience. I pray and trust these comments will be read and received in the same spirit of constructive but non-judgmental criticism in which they are offered.

Here are a few of my Ecclesiastical Pet Peeves:

Outside and in the parking lot:

  • Un-mowed grass, un-trimmed bushes, outdated church sign, poorly maintained facilities
  • Non-existent or unclear directions for visiting, elderly or physically challenged worshipers to convenient parking spots
  • Poorly marked parking spaces or spaces too narrow for the average vehicle
  • No parking lot attendants to provide information and assistance, especially for seniors and in times of inclement weather

In the worship service:

  • Absence of friendly, outgoing, well-groomed, trained greeters to welcome worshipers
  • Lack of properly trained ushers to assist latecomers in finding a seat in the sanctuary or to invite latecomers to wait in the narthex until a natural and appropriate time to enter
  • Printed orders of confession of sin that put what may not be accurately self-descriptive words in the mouths of worshipers
  • Responsive readings that are pedantic and unrelated to the life experience of worshipers expected to speak those words
  • Selection of hymns or songs that are very difficult, if not nearly impossible to sing
  • Projecting on a screen the words of unfamiliar hymns or songs without the musical score
  • Requiring worshipers to stand and sit, stand and sit, repetitively or unnecessarily—three times in one worship service should be sufficient
  • Requiring worshipers to stand during a several minute prayer or for an unusually lengthy Scripture reading, even if it is the gospel lesson for the day—I can listen or pray to our Lord with greater devotion while remaining comfortably seated than if having to stand again after being seated only moments or sometimes even seconds earlier

In speaking or preaching:

  • Absence of a friendly word of welcome by the pastor or other church leader that briefly explains the reason for worship and the central theme of the day’s worship service
  • Reading of Scripture lessons by the pastor or other person without clear and distinct pronunciation or without the emotion demanded by the text itself
  • Service leaders who pay little if any attention to personal appearance
    • Shoes freshly shined
    • Hair neatly trimmed
    • Face cleanly shaved or, if you insist, beard/goatee/mustache neatly trimmed—Note to clergy and other public worship leaders: Compare the most recent photo of the motorcycle shooting participants in Waco or Mexican drug cartel leaders with a photo of the Fortune 500 CEOs or all but nine of the 44 U.S. presidents and see which group you most nearly resemble—I’m just sayin’ …
  • Lack of explanation regarding the reason and purpose for gathering of offerings
  • Non-existent practice of explaining in simple, evangelical and understandable words the reason for the sacrament of Holy Communion and what the Bible says about proper reception of this wonderful means of God’s grace
  • Speaking or preaching in a manner that makes it difficult for people of all ages to hear and understand what is being said
    • Slow down, you speak too fast
    • Speed it up, you talk too slow
    • Speak up, don’t whisper, we can’t hear you, you’re speaking to a crowd, not an individual
    • Speak naturally, lose the pulpit tone

That’s enough for now. I’m fairly certain this list omits some personal peeves that you could readily add. I’m also fairly certain some will agree and others will disagree with what I’ve written. I’m always interested in hearing what you think about stuff I write, even when it’s not possible for me to reply to all the responses, suggestions, criticisms and adulations I receive.

One final thought in the interest of full disclosure. It’s right and proper for you to know that at one point or another in my own ministry it’s very likely that I fanned the flame by participating in some of these peevish matters myself and sometimes that happens still today. Mea culpa! Mea maxima culpa!

What’s the bottom line? If you’re in charge of anything ecclesiastical, pay close attention to what goes on around you and do what you can to make the worship experience as worshipful and meaningful as possible. Even when that happens Satan will try to disturb and distract.

People assemble to worship our Lord in spirit and in truth. Do everything you can as an ecclesiastical leader to help that happen!

Grammatical Pet Peeves

Student PaperA year ago I saw a Facebook posting from a friend of mine, Rev. Tom Handrick, titled “Rants and Pet Peeves.” It brought to mind a few such pet peeves of my own, all grammatical. While a few of my peeves are the same as Tom’s, I have others. I’ll try to forego the ranting. Here we go:

  • Spelling the possessive of “it” as “it’s” which is actually the contraction of “it is”
    • The possessive of “it” is simply “its”
  • Making plural words out of last names and other personal nouns by adding ‘s (such as Johnson’s are coming for dinner) which makes them possessive words
    • A simple “s” without the apostrophe is all that’s needed to make a noun plural
  • Beginning a sentence with “me” instead of “I” as in “Me and Tom are eating”
    • The correct way is to say “Tom and I are eating”
  • Confusing “counsel” (a noun meaning advice or a verb meaning to advise) with “council” (a group)
  • Saying “as per” your request, which is redundant, instead of simply “per” your request
  • Saying “I told him, I said” instead of simply “I told him” or “I said”
  • Splitting an infinitive verb form (to go, to do, to take) with an adjective or adverb
    • The LCMS Mission Statement correctly includes the words “vigorously to make known the love of Christ” instead of the incorrect “to vigorously make known”
  • Referring to an inanimate object as “healthy” instead of “healthful”
    • Have you ever seen a sick store or a sick vegetable? Why call them healthy?
  • Using a singular noun with a plural pronoun:
    • Incorrect: Every child must bring their own lunch.
    • Correct: Every child must bring his or her own lunch.
  • Placing a modifier incorrectly:
    • Incorrect: Pray for the mother of Judy Smith, who died yesterday. (Who died?)
    • Correct: Pray for Judy Smith’s mother, who died yesterday. (Judy’s mother died.)
  • Using “irregardless” instead of simply “regardless”
  • Misusing “I” as an object and “me” as a subject
    • Incorrect: Susie gave Jane and I a tip on the race.
    • Correct: Susie gave Jane and me and tip on the race.
    • Hint: Take out “Jane” – Susie gave me a tip, not Susie gave I a tip.
  • Writing “your” (something belonging to you) when you mean “you’re” (you are)
  • Saying “unthaw” instead of simply “thaw”
  • Using the verb “affect” instead of the noun “effect”
    • Incorrect: What’s the affect of the rain on our picnic plans?
    • Correct: What’s the effect of the rain on our picnic plans?
  • Saying “loose” (not tight) when you mean “lose” (lost or can’t find)
  • Using “principle” (moral rule) instead of “principal” (person in charge)
  • Saying “lie” (recline) when you mean “lay” (put or place)
  • Using “advise” (verb) instead of “advice” (noun)
  • Other terms that are misused include:
    • “Farther” (physical distance) and “further” (figurative distance)
    • “Who” (nominative) and “whom” (subjective)
    • “Fewer” (specific numbers) and “less” (smaller quantity)
    • “Since” (refers to time) and “because” (causative effect)
    • “There” (location), “their” (belongs to them) and “they’re” (they are)
    • “Then” (point in time or as a result) and “than” (comparison)
    • “Could of” or “would of” or “should of” rather than “could, would, should have”
    • “Compliment” (saying something nice) and “complement” (adding to)
    • “Historic” (important event) and “historical” (happened in the past)

Others could be added to the representative group above. I fully expect to receive replies from some of you, adding your own particular examples.

Pet peeves may seem frivolous to some. Their abuse has no eternal consequence. Yet proper grammatical usage reflects, for better or worser (oops … for better or for worse) J on the user. That’s especially true in the case of folks who frequently write for public consumption or speak in public gatherings. Incorrect grammar is simply an unwelcome and unnecessary distraction!

So please accept this reminder as a respectful, fraternal encouragement to pay attention to grammatical correctness. Preachers, teachers, business leaders, parents and politicians, this includes all of you. Sometimes that’s easier to do than (not then) J at other times!

Many blessings!