The Show Goes Wrong

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The show goes wrong. This is my mantra as a pastor. My congregants hear me say it a lot, and it’s usually followed by a laugh. It’s not something I came up with myself. I give credit to Andy Dwyer, a character from the sitcom Parks and Rec. His “incorrect” version of “the show must go on” is actually far better than the original. His version is one to live by. I do not think there could be a more fitting maxim for a new pastor in the throes of a pandemic.

The show goes wrong. When we hold Meetings for Worship online, it is never perfect. Someone forgets to mute themselves, and we hear distracting background noise. We have connectivity issues. I’ve lost contact with my congregation twice while I was leading worship. It’s happened to folks who were reading Sunday’s scripture. Someone’s camera doesn’t work. We miscommunicate because we cannot hear each other. We talk over each other and our conversations becomes jumbled.

When we hold Meeting for Worship outdoors, weather permitting, the show goes wrong in other ways. My sermon manuscript and our bulletins fly away in the wind, even when we thought they were held down by rocks. Sometimes outdoor worship is muffled for those attending via Zoom. Tech messes up and we cannot hear our Zoom participants. Our internet goes out. Our recording glitches. Things don’t go the way we want. Things go wrong. But at the end of the day, it is okay.

The show goes wrong. I have been the pastor at Klamath Falls Friends since August 2020. Boy howdy, have I have made plenty of mistakes. I sent out two versions of the same newsletter to everyone for several months. I forgot my mask when visiting folks and had to pull my shirt up over my face. My emails took on an unintentional tone that caused hurt and misunderstanding. I’ve tripped over my words when delivering a message. I didn’t find the errors in my manuscript until I was preaching. I’ve done the wrong thing in pastoral care situations. I’ve said too much. I’ve said too little. There will be more mistakes, some small, some big. But at the end of the day, it will be okay. I will forgive and I will be forgiven. I will continue to grow and learn from the times that the show goes wrong. My spiritual gifts will grow, too.

The show goes wrong. This mantra reminds me of God’s compassion and empathy. God knows that things go wrong. With this mangled maxim, God speaks to my vocational life. God reminds me that we are in a pandemic, and things are not ideal. It keeps me humble. It reminds me that I cannot control much. It reminds me that mistakes happen. My mistakes can be forgiven. It reminds me that I am a human being; there is no such thing as a perfect pastor. Most of all, it reminds me to not take things too seriously.

The show goes wrong. I cringe sometimes. I grumble sometimes that things didn’t go my way. But now, I am better able to forgive myself. Now, I find myself laughing at the absurdity of it all. Nothing – and no one – can be perfect. That is the best trick I have up my sleeve.  ~~~

Anthony Kirk is the pastor of Klamath Falls Friends Church in Klamath Falls, OR.

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