This morning I give thanks — as I have for the last three Monday mornings — that I’m not an NFL replacement ref. Talk about receiving the scorn of the nation. Ouch! ESPN highlights your most recent gaffes and follies, players bash you on Twitter, and, while head coaches try to refrain from heaping verbal abuse on you during their post-game press conferences for fear of heavy fines from the Commissioner, their body language and facial expressions hardly belie their true feelings.
You have to pity these folks who are doing the best they can amid an untenable and highly visible situation. Plus those of us who “only work on Sunday mornings” have to stick together. Just kidding — I certainly hope the NFL and the “real” refs can iron out their (monetary) differences so these replacement refs can go back to their real jobs of selling shoes at Foot Locker.
Of course this got me wondering about what would happen if replacement clergy were used on a Sunday morning. Sure, people like to complain about their parish priests but I think there’d be a new appreciation for them if we brought in replacement clergy one week. Here are some possible conseqences:
1. The liturgy would start 15 minutes late because the “priest” couldn’t figure out how to tie the cincture (the fancy church word for rope that gets tied around an alb, which in turn is a fancy church word for white garment).
2. No one could hear the opening collect (fancy church word for prayer — pronounced COLL-ect) because the “priest” couldn’t operate the wireless microphone. On the other hand, everyone could hear the “priest’s” pre-service trip to the bathroom because he/she got the on-off button confused.
3. Liturgical bedlam would ensue as the “priest” would have no idea when to stand, sit, or kneel. This would likely cause somebody at the 8 o’clock service to break a hip.
4. Not being used to public speaking, the sermon would be an unmitigated disaster. Remembering the words of the third grade teacher who told the “priest” to picture the audience in their underwear, he/she would become flustered and strip down to his/her underwear instead. While this might attract the two new families that Sunday, the parish veterans would be horrified and Tweet pictures to the bishop.
5. There’s a fine line between a moment of silence and an awkward pause.
6. The “priest” would completely lose control at the Peace and it would devolve into a coffee hour-like free-for-all. Though, in some parishes, that’s the norm so no harm done.
7. Upon receipt of the collection the “priest” would assume this was a tip and pocket all the cash.
8. Prepaing the altar for communion looks easy to those who have seen it done hundreds and hundreds of times in their lives. In practice there’s an order to things that doesn’t include dumping a chalice-full of wine on the fair linen (fancy church word for table cloth).
9. Rushing out the door and forgetting to eat breakfast, the “priest” would engage in the old ‘One for me, one for you’ practice at the communion rail.
10. Rather than greeting people at the door following the liturgy, the “priest” would see an opportunity to be the first one to coffee hour. You’d find him/her tossing back munchkins in the parish hall like the Wicked Witch of the East.
So be careful what you wish for the next time you consider locking out the clergy. But remember, if things go away you can always throw one of those liturgical penalty flags.