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Ahoy there!

Greeting people at church on a Sunday morning can be tricky. I know how silly that statement sounds but hear me out.


Generally, I’m quite busy before the meeting doing last-minute bits and pieces and making sure everything and everyone is ready for what has to happen during the meeting. It’s not unusual to see me crisscrossing the foyer in and out of doors as I attend to a series of minor matters and tasks.


This means that as someone arrives at church, they often receive a smile from me and a “Good morning, how are you?” and as they start to answer, I walk out a door.


Occasionally, I have time to stop and greet them more politely, which can also be fraught with danger.


“Good morning, how are you?”, “Well, let me tell you. On Thursday, my cat nearly died ... was it Thursday? No, it was Tuesday. Because his arthritic hip was giving him grief, and as he walked out of the house to the front steps, he ... no, it was Thursday because on Tuesday I had to see my podiatrist about this fungal thing that’s starting to ... oh, hang on, maybe it was Wednesday. No, on Wednesday I did the groceries. Gosh, oranges are expensive at the moment, aren’t they? Anyway, I needed to see him because my friend had said ...”


By this stage, I’m praying for the Second Coming to occur immediately. My mind is jumping to the five things I must do in the 10 minutes before church starts, so I politely extricate myself from the dialogue and get on my way.


It can also be problematic when you ask someone how they are, and how they are is not good. “Good morning, how are you?”, “Homeless; hungover; hungry, lonely, depressed and tired, and I haven’t washed once in the last week.” “Right. Okay. Well, lovely to see you.”


Part of the problem is that I’m not naturally a morning person, so it requires effort from me, and I always feel like I’m supposed to be saying something holy, blessing-laden or inspirational.


I recall attending a Bible camp several decades ago when I bumped into constantly-happy-Phil on the way to breakfast. I mumbled, “Morning, Phil.” He exclaimed, “Good morning, Mal. I’m saved and redeemed by the blood of Jesus Christ.” I mumbled, “Good for you. Let’s have some Weet-Bix to celebrate.”


Part of the issue is that some people expect to be greeted by the officer (they possibly also expect a red carpet and for people to bow, but that’s their issue). At one corps, I greeted someone near the door, and they stopped dead in their tracks and said, “That’s the first time you’ve said good morning to me in five weeks.” And I said, “Why are you counting?”


I’m a pretty transparent sort of guy, and I prefer people who are natural. Fake airs and graces (it’s an old phrase, Google it young people) do nothing for me. So, I much prefer it when someone just mumbles “Morning’” and yawns as they do so. No need for the fake smile and cheery greeting if you’re feeling flat – just be genuine.


Maybe it would be more fun to take Thomas Edison’s advice and just shout “Ahoy!” at someone instead of saying “Hello”. William Booth said we are here for the “whosoever”, so I can only assume he included pirates.


– Major Mal Davies and his wife Major Tracey are the Corps Officers at Adelaide City Salvos


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