Hilariassments are funny and potentially embarrassing real-life stories that remind us of the most human moments we share in ministry. They might be things that happen in worship, mistakes we make in ministry, or one of those things that happen at the wrong time. We’d love to hear about your hilariassment moments – they might make us smile while reassuring us that we’re not the only ones who don’t get it right all the time, If you’d prefer not to have your name used, tell us and mum’s the word.
So this afternoon I am working on my sermon at church and I see an old white car I don’t recognize drive slowly behind the building. — No big deal, scouts and others with keys often stop by and go in the back door of the church. So I listen for the sound of keys in the door or voices in the building, but hear nothing after a few minutes. –It isn’t an AA night, so it isn’t one of those folks stopping by and it’s too early in the day for them anyway. So because I am now curious, I wander to the back of the church to take a look out through our tinted windows. And I see that it is two high school students in their car in our back parking lot, and he has the seat leaned back and there is some serious heavy groping going on. –So at this point, I ask myself. “Why didn’t they teach us what to do about this sort of thing in seminary?” And I really don’t want to watch and I don’t really want them doing anything much more serious in our back parking lot. And I don’t want to be rude or mean to local kids I don’t know. So what do I do?
The only other thing out in the back parking lot is our trash can. So I go to the church kitchen, grab the half full garbage bag from the kitchen, I make sure that I have my church keys and then I march that black garbage bag out to the dumpster. —Because I suddenly felt the urgent need for that particular bag of garbage to be taken out of the building exactly right then. As soon as I opened the back door of the church and they saw me, they stopped what they were doing, she adjusted her shirt, and he straightened up his seat. “Oh hi!” I said as I smiled toward them. And then the boy gave me a very dirty look as he turned his car around and quickly drove away as I dumped my trash bag in the can. Even trash has a place and a purpose at church. (Rev. KFL)
My sister-in-law and her husband speak baby language to each other and it drives my husband and I crazy. They refer to each other as “My wittle wuvley wifey woo” or “my wittle wuvley hubby cubby” My husband and I sometimes jokingly reference this when one of us is trying to cajole the other into a better mood. We pride ourselves on our irony. During a long Presbytery Meeting, I ducked out to the back of the Sanctuary to call my husband. He was annoyed because I was coming home much later than I had told him. So I said,. “Ise sowwy. Wittle wuvley wifey woo wuvs wittle wuvley hubby cubby.” It was heard by everyone in the room. I was still mic’d from my meeting presentation. It was not heard as irony. (Rev. Chris W.)
While initiating prayer, I once asked the congregation to please bow their eyes and close their heads. (Rev. S.T.)
Half-way through my sermon, I had a strange sense of deja-vu. But of course, I ploughed ahead. As she was leaving the church, a 92-year old congregant told me that she had enjoyed my sermon this week even more than she had the previous week. At first, I thought she meant she liked this week’s sermon more than the previous week’s. But no. I had printed out the previous week’s sermon and delivered it again. “Oh, no,” I groaned. “Pastor, dear,” she said, “it’s nothing. When you think you’re gaining weight because your pants don’t fit and then realize it’s because you’re trying to put them on over another pair of pants, call me. I have some tips.” (Rev. Anne P)
The first child I baptized was 18 months old. I didn’t make adjustments for her size and weight, as I held her over the baptismal font. When I moved one hand to the water she slid from my arm and landed in a sitting position right into the water (too close to the water to be hurt). The water soaked the bottom of her dress and her little face registered her surprise before she broke out into a loud wail and reached for her mother. Her mom held her dripping body over the font as I baptized the infant who continued to wail. A quick-thinking Sunday School teacher got a towel to wrap around her after the baptism. That was 11 years ago. The story has become, “Remember the time the Pastor almost drowned a baby?” (Rev. Diana)
It took a whole summer before someone (my sister who was visiting that day) pointed out to me that my new white robe was see-through. It would not have been so bad had I not thought it would be cooler only to wear my underwear beneath it. (Mum)
While in seminary, I sometimes preached at a small church whose members I knew quite well. One Sunday, before the worship service, a man (I’ll call him Tim) confided in me that he and his wife had recently separated but were keeping it private until they had a better idea of whether or not they would reconcile or divorce. I promised to keep them in prayers and, of course, honor their privacy. During the children’s sermon, I asked the children if they had ever moved to a new house. Tim’s daughter raised her hand immediately. “Kind of,” she said, “I have my old house here with my mommy and a sort of new house because my daddy just got his own apartment in Queens.” I glanced at Tim – he smiled good-naturedly and shrugged his shoulders.
(Elaine Connolly, NAPC newsletter editor who seems to have too many stories for Hilariassments)
It’s embarrassing to admit, but for three weeks, I referred in a sermon series to two of Jacob’s wives as Zippa and Bulbus. I got Rachel and Leah right! (Mum)
A colleague’s Installation Service happened on a very hot summer day in an old sanctuary with no air conditioning or even much ventilation. At the last minute, it was decided that we would not robe, but wear our stoles. The minister ascended the high pulpit to deliver the sermon, but once delivered, she did not come down from the pulpit. Others got up to lead different parts of the service, but the preacher made it clear that she wasn’t ceding the pulpit to any of us. Each of us, in our turn, moved to the Choir Director’s standing microphone, which had no lectern, to deliver our reading or charge. It was often awkward as many of us had papers, although eventually, a music stand was provided to help us through. At the end of the service, the preacher remained in the pulpit, not even joining us for the Recessional, staying there until the last person left the sanctuary. There were certainly some murmurs of, “What’s the deal with the preacher?” as we went to the room at the back of the church where we removed our stoles and prepared to go to the reception. Then all was made clear. The preacher’s dress had caught in the small doors that were at the back of the pulpit and a large cloth panel was ripped from the dress, exposing the area from the back of her knees to just below her shoulder blades. She joined us at the reception, wearing the robe that her husband retrieved for her.
I wrote a note to Jean (not her real name) on the anniversary of her husband’s death. Without specifically referring to Jean’s loss, I mentioned how difficult the year had been (we had had many conversations during the year), and quoted her description of it as the year she wished she could wish away. I offered words of encouragement, acknowledging the challenges she was wading through. I also wrote a card to a couple celebrating their first wedding anniversary. The problem? I mailed the sympathy card to the couple – and the woman was also called Jean. Fortunately, I did not send the wedding anniversary card to the widow – that remained on my desk to be mailed the following week and I caught the mistake before it happened. The husband said, “I opened the card and had a bad moment. I can’t say the first year of marriage didn’t bring some challenges, but, dang, Pastor, I didn’t think it was that bad!” The couple still occasionally teases me about it. And lesson learned – double-check card and envelope when writing to more than one person.
I preach without notes. In one sermon, I explained that “Abba” meant something close to “Daddy.” It was fine for a sermon, but I realized that I’d been too heavy-handed with the term when each prayer that used “Daddy” (and there were a lot) was starting a chain of giggles that became contagious through a few rows of the sanctuary. A little can go a long way.