Anglicans Online banner More about the gryphon
Independent On the web since 1994 More than 250,000 readers More than 32,000 links Updated every Sunday
Will you help support
Anglicans Online?

The Paypal logotype

Noted This Week
Sites new to AO

News Centre
News archive

News flash: a summary of the top headlines
Find us on Facebook Follow us on Twitter Follow us by email
Be notified each week

Start here
Anglicans believe...
The Prayer Book
The Bible

Read letters to AO
Write to us

Resources A to Z

World Anglicanism
Anglican Communion
In full communion
Not in the Communion

Dioceses and Parishes
Hong Kong
New Zealand

South Africa
Sri Lanka

Vacancies Centre
List a vacancy
Check openings worldwide

Add a site or link to AO
Add a site to AO
Link to AO

About Anglicans Online
Back issues
About our logo
Our search engine


Hallo again to all.

Bad preaching.

From time to time, when we walk out of church after the final dismissal and postlude, we shake our head invisibly and say to ourselves 'My goodness, but that preacher was bad.' We had one of those days recently.

We travel on business quite a bit, and that business travel typically wants us to be on the job Monday morning. We could travel on Sunday, but then we'd miss church altogether. Our custom is to travel on Saturday, attend church in the destination city on Sunday, and be ready for work the next morning. It is usually an upbeat experience, even when the preaching is cringe-worthy.

Our society seems to have an ambiguous relationship with badness. We sometimes hear someone comment 'That was so bad it was good.' Short video clips of bad behaviour are often memorialised online as humour. Televised sporting event commentators often focus as much on mistakes as well as skilful play. Newspapers publish articles 'Why women can't resist bad boys'. The protagonists of novels and cinema are often the villains and not the heroes; it is unsurprising to read such protagonists described glowingly as 'bad-ass'. The type font 'Bad Cabbage' was very popular in adverts some decades ago, though we suppose no one knew its name. The list of examples could go on and on, but we think you get the idea. Oh, one more example we cannot resist is the cult surrounding the wealthy off-key soprano Florence Foster Jenkins, described by one music historian as 'the world's worst opera singer'.

Several different aspects of preaching can be bad. The words of the sermon can be clumsy, illiterate, illogical, incorrect, or merely annoying. The rhetorical style of the spoken delivery can be bad. The style that distresses us the most is when the preacher speaks in a way that conveys the preacher's belief that he or she is the centre of the story, and not the scripture it is based on. Our favourite preachers always make us believe that they are directly channelling Jesus; after we hear bad preaching we can often describe the preacher's hairstyle and brand of wristwatch (they being more interesting than the sermon's content).

Not only are there so many ways to be bad; sometimes 'bad' is in the mind of the beholder. A late relative of ours treasured a 1954 RCA record album release of Florence Foster Jenkins' singing, and tried more than once to get us to listen to it. Not long ago a distressed friend asserted that a certain sermon was bad because the preacher had titled it 'Ninth Sunday after Pentecost' and not 'Feast of the Transfiguration', having evidently forgotten that in 2017 that ninth Sunday was the assigned date to celebrate the Transfiguration. We suspect almost nobody else noticed, though the error was fixed on the church website some time later.

When we experience good preaching, we usually feel educated and edified. When we experience bad preaching, we sometimes try to salvage the experience by re-reading the assigned scripture and attempting to figure out what it was that the preacher was trying to say. We don't always succeed at that; some preachers are just thick. But we do always wait in line afterwards at the back of the nave to thank the preacher and say we enjoyed it. Though we are sometimes elusive about what we mean by 'it', we are always grateful for their service to the church.

See you next week.

Our signatures
All of us at Anglicans Online

10 September 2017

A thin blue line
This web site is independent. It is not official in any way. Our editorial staff is private and unaffiliated. Please contact about information on this page. ©2017 Society of Archbishop Justus
. Please address all spam to