Magazine article The Christian Century

Good Sermon, Reverend

Magazine article The Christian Century

Good Sermon, Reverend

Article excerpt

MARTIN COPENHAVER'S insightful "Handshake ritual" (p. 22) catches the preacher's attention. The more I am in this business the more ambivalent I feel about the traditional ritual of greeting worshipers after the service. I know myself well enough to understand how much I love those compliments, how seductive and addictive it is to hear "Good sermon, Reverend," even though the same people say it every Sunday, regardless of what happened or failed to happen in the pulpit that morning. I know that their remark may be no more than an extension of "Good morning." And I know myself well enough to laugh at the way I begin to tighten and feel anxious if three or four parishioners shake my hand and don't say it.

I'm grateful to Copenhaver for the reminder about how much is going on in the ritual of shaking hands at the church door--for both the people and the minister. Copenhaver says all ministers have a collection of at-the-door stories. One of my favorites happened when I was preaching at an installation service for a friend in North Carolina. One of the great things about preaching in the South is that people there are so nice. It's not that northerners aren't nice; it's just that southerners are more inclined to exude graciousness. …

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