Thursday, 12 May 2011

Dinner Graces

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

Naval Graces

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!



UKViewer said...

I am surprised that you are not asked to do the grace. Padre's normally get this by default, even when a guest or out of respect for their position.

Is there such a thing as an Ecumenical, multi-faith, atheist grace?

Vic Van Den Bergh said...

I'm always in the frame for the grace when I'm in one of my chaplain's roles, but this particular dinner is one that I go to as a punter and the garce is handed to an undergrad'.

There are indeed graces that can be used with atheists, and in both ecumenical and multifaith settings and there are even graces which work with all.

Here's one I wrote a while back for an all faith/no faith setting (a specific request as there were all and none present):

We give thanks for the food before us,
Those beside us,
The reason that unites us,
And the friendship that grows between us.

No 'amen' or reference to any deity - which is odd, but was requested, because of the setting.

Apparently it worked well and gave to each a meaning relevant to them!

Hey Ho!!

Nick said...

Being the Squadron padré and Station Chaplain, I too get asked to say grace on a regular basis. I have a few favourites ("God bless this bunch as they crunch their lunch" is not one of them!) A true favourite begins,

"For the Spirit of Adventure which takes us into the air, and for the Grace of the Holy Spirit,
which brings us safely back to land..."

Not recommended when the Rotary Club is about to go on the club holiday the next day! ;0)

Battersea Boy said...

Have you ever been to a conference where the morning session has badly overrun, with the result that you have just 30mins before restarting?

Coming late to luncheon at one such event, we were regaled with a veritable feast when most of us were expecting a simple cold buffet. As heads were bowed, we heard:

"Lord, give us grace and give us power,
to shift this lot in half-an-hour."

to which all responded with a loud Amen.

Jo said...

Uur children's favourite is the Simpsons grace: Rubbadubdub, thanks for the grub! but maybe not for your purposes. ;)

Revsimmy said...

One appalling grace used by a former vicar at parish bring & share lunches: "Bless this bunch as we munch our lunch."

Totally agree with you, Vic.

Revsimmy said...

The one I use often at parish events these days (unless there is some specific celebration) goes:

"For fun, food and fellowship (or friendship) we give you thanks, O Lord. Amen."

Lay Anglicana said...

One of the graces given in your hyperlink to the RAF includes:
"And so dearest Lord, pure and divine
Who changed the water into wine,
Bless us now, ‘ere we shall lack,
As this night we seek to change it back. Amen."

The worst-chosen time and place for this grace was at a St George's Day dinner in one of the Gulf states. It was over 10 years ago, but I still remember the shocked silence at this gathering of self-important 'gentlemen and their ladies'. It took the vicar years to live it down.

Hugh said...

The shortest I've ever come across:

'Ta Pa' .......


Vic Van Den Bergh said...

Thanks for the comments and contributions,


Anonymous said...

Revsimmy - there is another version of this grace which I used at a Para mess night

For Food, friendship and all good things that begin with F, we give you thanks O Lord.

Anonymous said...

Thanks Vic, your hints on what "grace"is has helped me with a training dining in night.

Vic Van Den Bergh said...

I'm so glad that this blog entry is proving to be a blessing to so many - thanks for the encouragement

Private Number (2nd class) said...

There is a line which can be tagged on the end of graces such as - Lord, bless this food upon our plate and keep us good for Jesus' sake...
"And like the sugar in our tea, stir Your Spirit up in me."
On a par with the Cornflakes one really

Sue said...

Your page helped me find a most suitable Grace for an up coming dinner. Many of the people attending I have not seen in more than a decade, so was not sure how to proceed. You have saved the day - thank you.

Vic Van Den Bergh said...


Thanks for the post - I'm really please that I could be of assistance.


Fiona B said...

I am trying to find the words to a version (I think) of Robert's Burns' 'some hae meat etc' grace which my late Father used to say. My late Mother told me he said it once in front of the vicar at his own Mother's house and got the look of 'just wait till I speak to you later' from his Mother (he was about 50 too at the time). My family think it was from his Army days in WW2". All I recall as a young girl is hearing the bit about 'rise from the table with a half full belly'. It was a short 5 line grace, like Burns's, about folks who had food and those who didn't. I think it may have started like Burns' but the Army boys changed the ending.
As a youngster the word 'belly' tickled me and it was one of those oh no, not in front of the vicar Graces. Is anyone out there in touch with their elderly relatives who might just know this Grace?

Vic Van Den Bergh said...

Fiona - What you want is the 'Selkirk Grace'

Some hae meat and canna eat and some wad eat that want it;
but we hae meat, and we can eat and sae good Lord we thank Thee.



Leslie Lim said...

This is really an interesting topic. Congratulations to the writer. I'm sure a lot of readers having fun reading your post. Hoping to read more post from you in the future. Thank you and God bless!