This is me, Eccles

This is me, Eccles
This is me, Eccles

Saturday, 14 May 2016

No jokes in your sermons, please

We have written before on How to make sermons less boring, but a recent poll has indicated that congregations do not like jokes in sermons. So let's have another go at this one.

No jokes. So, I'm afraid, dear Lord, that joke of Yours about straining at a gnat (gamla) and swallowing a camel (gamal) will have to go. It always brings the house down when we have that in the Gospel. Also the story about people having planks in their eyes - well, our focus group isn't too keen.

old lady swallowed cow

There was an old lady who swallowed a camel.

Today's tip for preachers is to avoid words and phrases that may trigger giggles in sermons. Here's a short list:

1. The bishop. Like it or not, most bishops are figures of fun. There are exceptions, of course: some are not megalomaniac self-publicists or idle time-servers, but devout and holy men who are true pastors of their sheep. However, in many dioceses the mere mention of the bishop will cause eye-rolling, sniggering, and head-shaking. Especially if he was on the television last night.

Rhino Marx

A devout and holy man.

2. Richard Dawkins. Although a tragic figure, rather than a comedian per se, he is associated with so many funny stories that his comedy value is more than his value as a source of spiritual nourishment. If he does finally convert, then he will have a natural role as a patron saint of comics. Or possibly honey.

3. The Spirit of Vatican II. It's probably safe to mention Vatican II, which was not inherently funny. However, invoke the Spirit (and the same goes for the Spirit of Laudato Si' or the Spirit of Amoris Laetitia), and the giggling will start.

morris dancer

The Spirit of Amoris Dancer.

4. Tina Beattie. I suppose a blood-and-thunder denunciation of the dear lady from the pulpit, although it would be impressive, is too much to ask for. Mentioning her in the context of Catholic teaching will probably count as a joke. No, avoid the subject.

5. Giles Fraser. Like Dawkins, an endless source of mirth, so much so that the mere mention of his name brings a smile to the face. I suppose that in private he may be a tortured soul who only wants to be loved, but even God must be congratulating Himself on one of his funniest creations.

6. Women bishops, women priests, deaconesses. Stop sniggering at the back.

Women bishops

I said, "Stop sniggering."

7. Paul Inwood. It's difficult to see how the subject might come up in a sermon, unless one of the Biblical readings was about a hideous and ghastly noise (there's probably a suitable text in the book of Revelation), but your audience will now be thinking "Alleluia, Ch-Ch" or "Prepare the way of the Lord, Moo-oo-oo, Moo-oo-oo".

8. Jesuits. Nowadays these are inherently funny, inasmuch as there are more jokes about Jesuits than spiritually nourishing stories. Forget it.

Well, you get the idea. Keep off topics that may trigger laughter. Model yourself on a BBC alternative comic - Jeremy Hardy, say, or Marcus Brigstocke. If they can talk for 20 minutes without making anyone laugh, then you should be able to as well.

Kate Bottley looking even stupider than usual

Maintain the dignity of the cloth at all times!


  1. I'm not sniggering, honest, but what on earth is that confection the lady on the extreme right is wearing on her head? Looks like some kind of turban. I know we are all supposed to be ever so ecumenical these days, but that is ridiculous.

    1. They all look as ridiculous as they really are!

    2. Well, yes, the one on the right, but what about the one just next to her, who looks like a giant mandarin? Just what IS that 'design' on the 'hat'?