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Sunday, April 17, 2005

A heckler

Yes, this morning's Mass was punctuated with a less-than-delightful diversion, which was not from Sarum, John Chrysostom, Tridentine, or any other liturgy that I know of.

We had a heckler.

This started during the sermon, with shouts of "Excuse me!", and a swift stop to it with a stern look and a hand signal from Father. Afterwards, during the period of silence that precedes the Creed, it started again. Again Father told her to stop, and very sternly never to do it again. She continued to shout and so, after much debate with one of the wardens, which lasted for most of the Creed, was escorted off the premises.

Now to be charitable, this lady is clearly unwell. She comes to Mass occasionally, and is usually rather well-behaved, usually reserving her criticism of the sermon and other shouting for after the service, but this is not the first time that she has done this. I am told that this has previously happened once during the Pax, and on another occasion, during the Prayers of Intercession, seemingly because of her disagreement with some of what was said during the course of said prayers.

I think that Father finally decided that enough was enough, and that the congregation should not be made to suffer because of one person's inability to control herself, which seems rather reasonable to me, especially as he had already offered to respond to any of her objections after the Mass.

Disrupting a church service is still illegal in this country, and by right, the wardens could have detained her and called the police. Out of charity and taking account of her mental instability, this route was not pursued, but I think that a stern word, reminding her that she has, in fact, broken the law and could have landed herself in court, may well be in order. Unfortunately, gone are the days when the virger and one of the wardens were provided by Her Majesty's constabulary, but I am sure that they still have some rights to enforce the law in church, especially in situations like this one.

Does anybody remember the incident involving Peter Tatchell in Canterbury Cathedral one Easter Day a few years back? I believe that he was fined for disrupting the Mass, (although it was only during Carey's sermon, so I'm not sure I would have been too bothered, had I been there).

Has anybody else had experiences of this nature? How were they dealt with?

Many thanks.

10 comments:

Anonymous said...

Help! I can't read this post because it's in white letters that are overshadowed by beautiful icons! Am I losing my eyesight or my mind?

Leetle M.

Anonymous said...

Never mind.... I did a "select all" and the pictures disappeared, giving me green letters on a white background--then I could read it!

I will pray for that poor lady...she sounds like she really needs professional help.

But in the early days of Christianity, and indeed in Jesus' own time, hecklers were a fact of life. Even St. John Chrysostom was heckled.

I think the wardens did well enough to just usher the poor soul out... it's sad. God loves all His people, even, and maybe especially, the sickest ones.

If this were 19th C. Russia, and of course it's not, the lady might have been regarded as a Holy Fool. One must be =very= careful how one treats a Holy Fool...sometimes they are sent by God to make us think more carefully about how we act and what we say. Just a thought....

Leetle M.

Michael said...

I'm sure it's neither.

Do you mean the icons on the left, of Our Lord and Ss. Patrick and David?

I'm not sure what may be causing that, as they should display quite small. It displays okay here, but I'm not sure that means anything. Do you have the window minimised? If so, see if maximising it helps. I'm not sure what else to suggest. I'm sorry.

Michael said...

I'm sorry, Leetle M. We cross-posted.

Yes, you are right. It is always so difficult though balancing the needs of the one with those of the many.

She will be back ina few weeks' time, no doubt, hopefully in her more usual, respectful state, until the next outburst.

I too, shall pray for her.

Anonymous said...

Yes, it's the icons on the left. But don't worry--it could be my elderly computer, running on a 56 modem and Windoze Me. Or it could be my ISP--I tried maximizing the screen and stretching it in all directions as well. The icons appear about 1.5 x 2 inches and oveershadow the first 2 or 3 words of each paragraph, on my display, but it's probably just my computer as I said. Don't worry 'bout it!

Leetle M.

Anonymous said...

And this time, Michael, when I maximized the screen, only the first word of each line was slightly overshadowed, so it's definitely my computer (small monitor)!

Sorry for the bother.

Leetle M.

Aristibule said...

Hmm - I wonder what she was objecting to specifically? Sounds interesting - I've seen it done at Protestant churches.

Merseymike said...

I was thinking the same.

How would I behave if I was sitting in a sermon and heard something I strongly objected to?

I think I would probably walk out ensuring that it was obvious that i was displeased.

But thinking 'what a load of tosh' in sermons is a regular occurrence in any case!

Aristibule said...

What, no stool-tossing like ole Jennie Geddes? ;)

The whole issue of disagreeing with sermons is just funny to me: sermons aren't as big a deal for me now that I'm Orthodox. I was genuinely amused when visiting St. Alban's, to have a lady checking everything the rector said in his sermon from the Scripture versus her Greek New Testament. Given that he had some novel interpretations of the meanings of specific words, and that she nodded her head in agreement: I have to wonder what sort of Greek they are teaching in Hertfordshire? ;)

Michael said...

I am in agreement with Aristiblue, yet again. :-)

I really don't see much point of a sermon during the Mass. It should be done separately, for people who like that sort of thing.