I am in the most privileged position of being invited to a number of dinners, albeit to do 'the grace', and as a result have to endure some of the most awful graces before the meal commences. It seems to me that all too often we are subjected to the most awful doggerel and smug self-satisfied tosh masquerading as 'the grace'.
The last few I have been present at were attempts at being funny coupled with the words of two or three humour-filled graces, which were made into one. This was followed by the person giving the grace looking around (ooh, aren't I clever, witting or stupid?) for laughter, applause or some other sign of approval.
The problem is that being assigned 'the grace' is not an opportunity for the speaker to shine, but rather a privilege, and quite solemn duty, in that they are leading those gathered in communication with God (as He is perceived or otherwise)!
The last grace I had to endure consisted of an introduction to the evening (which the president had done at the greeting), followed by a cute rhyming ditty in honour of the evening, the speaker, and the evening followed by what I recognised as two humorous graces lumped together to make us all laugh even more. Having completed the task, the person 'praying' (I use the word advisedly) looked around for signs of approval, before sitting down. This wasn't 'Grace' - it was someone being the cabaret!
Thing to remember when doing 'the grace':
1. This is not the opportunity to demonstrate your skills in the creation of rhyming doggerel,
2. It is not an opportunity to poke fun at colleagues or make 'in' comments about whatever it is that you and your mates find funny in your own little world outside of the dinner,
3. It is not an opportunity or perform some hideous kowtowing or other ingratiating homage to the guest of honour,
4. It is not an open mike session in the 'puerile prune' stand-up comedy club.
What 'the grace' is:
1. It is an opportunity for the person saying 'Grace' to lead those present into a place of thanks and reflection for the fare that is being placed before them,
2. It is an opportunity to give thanks for the fellowship about to be had, and for those with whom it will be had,
3. It is an opportunity, especially in a military or veterans setting, to remember those who are serving: A place to remember those who have served and to give thanks for service and commitment, and
4. At the right time, and in the right place, it is an opportunity to give people the space to remember those who would once have been at table with you but are no longer here. It's a space for reflection - not eulogies. Do this wrong and you can destroy the whole evening!!
The grace can be delivered with humour and also be topical, but it in not the light entertainment before the meal, that is the place of the Jester, not the person saying grace.
Some graces are awful and need shooting (along with those who so enjoy reciting them?).
An example of this probably being:
"May we not be like porridge, cold and stodgy, but like Cornflakes, crisp and ready to serve! "
And of course there's that wonderful grace so loved by Air Force types:
"God of goodness, bless our food, keep us in a pleasant mood.
Bless the chef and all who serve us, and from indigestion, Lord, preserve us. Amen."
Or perhaps the classics (used often in so many places:) ):
"For well-filled plate and brimming cup, and freedom from the washing up.
We thank you, Lord. Amen."
"For what we are about to receive, may the Lord make us truly thankful!"
There are a few good sources of graces. It is helpful to remember that in a service setting, collects and other prayers are also useful and fitting, to this end I have listed below a few sources of graces, collects and prayers such that you should never need to descend into the "For what we are about to receive fall back. "
Air Force Chaplain's Graces
Army Collects and other prayers
I'd be more than happy to receive your best, and worst, examples of a dinner grace as those for whom this post is aimed could do with all the help they can get. I'm always happy to help people who need a grace and can't find one - just add a comment or email me (St Francis' link will lead you to me).
Enjoy the privilege - take the role seriously - bon appetit!