We’re all a mess.

It’s a phrase I use a lot. If the first step toward health is acknowledging we have a problem and seeking help, then we’ve got that down. We are imperfect human beings in need of God’s grace and forgiveness, and one another’s.

St. Patrick’s, Dublin, is a congregation that accepts its imperfection, and so tries not to take itself too seriously. The church is willing even to laugh at itself. One story that many long-time members like to tell is about the day a farmer wanted to donate chickens for a dinner the church was providing to a homeless shelter. (In fact, St. Patrick’s has been providing dinners at the same homeless shelter once a month for all its 36-year history.) But there was a small problem with the chickens the farmer delivered so many years ago – they were all still alive. So, a parishioner set up a station in their back yard to prepare the chickens. The story is always told with a bit of laughter.

Some years, at the annual meeting, dubious achievement awards (called St. Paddy’s Awards) are given to those who have distinguished themselves by silly behavior. The rector is always a recipient, sometimes with multiple reasons for nomination. One year, our previous assistant, the Rev. Cricket Park, received a St. Paddy’s award for being the Eucharistic Pest Control. It was in honor of her swatting a spider crawling across the altar. She did it right in the middle of the Eucharistic Prayer, without missing a beat.

“At least I said, ‘Sorry Buddha’,” she replied.

God’s grace, forgiveness, and good sense of humor may be the best ingredients for congregational health.

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The Rev. Stephen Smith serves as rector at St. Patrick’s, Dublin.



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