DEAR MISS MANNERS: Our wonderful little church schedules a time during the Sunday service when worshipers may request that the congregation pray for a joy or concern they have.
This is written on a note card that is handed to the minister who then reads it to the congregation. Alternatively, the person may choose to talk about the joy or concern and, in that case, is recognized by being passed a hand-held microphone so everyone may hear the prayer request.
The microphone seems to be attracting quite a few people who use this opportunity for what they consider an amusing comment before they share the "joy" of a new car purchase, or "concern" for their alma mater's football team's losing streak.
I know there are others as uncomfortable as I am listening to some of these requests, especially when another member of the congregation may have just asked for prayers for a friend battling an addiction, or a colleague who has lost a spouse, or the safe return of a son serving in Iraq.
I'm a member of the church's lay governing body. How can I help encourage sharing and discourage the "performers" who seem to be attracted by a microphone and a captive audience?
GENTLE READER: First, stop handing out that microphone to known jokers and people whose written requests are frivolous. This is called removing temptation.
But before someone begins arguing for openness and spontaneity of expression, Miss Manners urges you to put some deeper questions before the governing body and, especially, your minister. She can only tell you that it is indeed rude to mix the silly with the serious, even socially. If you heard someone mention fear about a relative in danger, would you follow it up with, "Too bad, but you'll be happy to hear that I just bought a car"?
Your minister will have to decide what subjects he thinks fit for the congregation's prayers. If he finds some of the requests unsuitable, he could put them aside for a moment of fellowship where people could share their news. He might also consider a sermon about what is important in life. If he wants to use all requests, he can at least group them to avoid the jarring juxtaposition of those who fear losing games and those who fear losing lives.
DEAR MISS MANNERS: What do I do with this harpoon? I went to a fancy restaurant and they gave me a glass of water and said, "Do you want lemon with that?" and I said "Yes," and they carried out a lemon wedge on a plate. The wedge was impaled on a little yellow harpoon, a sort of long plastic toothpick with an arrow at the end.
Do I drop it in the water with the lemon? Balance it across my glass so the lemon is held a little out of the water? Yell "Thar she blows!" and hurl it at my neighbor?
GENTLE READER: What? No lemon forks? And not even any of those little silver clamps?
Not that this would make the procedure any different, Miss Manners is afraid; just prettier. You hold the lemon over the glass with whatever tool is supplied, and press the juice into the glass. You may take home the harpoon (but not the silver) and use it to pin a note saying, "We do not throw harpoons at the neighbors."