Chapter 45: mistakes in the oratory


If one makes a mistake in chanting a psalm, responsory antiphon, or in reading a lesson, he must immediately humble himself publicly.

How do you admit mistakes?

I loved the song and was excited when our music group decided to introduce it to our congregation in time for Christmas. I knew the songwriter and have deep respect for him and the group he is a part of, due to their theological rigour in writing worship songs/hymns. We began the song and it was engaging me intellectually as well as emotionally and spiritually. Then, we all sang the a line of the song and I was jolted from moment of praise…

“Surely that’s not right?!” I thought.

None else seemed to notice and they continued to sing. I stopped singing and went back to that line and tried to make sense of it. The songwriter was usually fairly solid theologically and so how was I mis-reading it. I went to the back of church and found a hymn book which I knew contained the song’s lyrics and turned to the relevant number. It read,

What kind of child causes heaven to sing. (Joel Payne, ‘What kind of throne’, RESOUNDworship, December 14 2014,, administered by The Jubilate Group)

“Oh!” I thought, “that makes much more sense!” The worship band had merely missed out that important ‘g’ at the end; I didn’t need to worry that Joel Payne believed Jesus causes heaven to sin!

It was an easy mistake to make, I’ve missed letters out of words or made typos in liturgy that are embarrassing. I’ve stumbled over words in preaching and mis-read passages from the Bible which drastically change the Word of God. It’s not a problem, as long as you own and admit the mistake publicly to ensure people know that it was a mistake. This particular mistake, if not highlighted, could cause many of the congregation to start believing heresy.

Mistakes are there to be learnt from and part of that lesson is about the public admission of mistake. We don’t forget the strain it is to admit weakness and failure easily and this drives us to want to be changed. Mistakes don’t have to be feared or actively resisted. The problem of viewing mistakes in this way is that it creates a larger pressure to cover up or deny mistakes and hide the shame. If you live in a culture where mistakes are to be expected then you are more likely to admit them quickly and grow from them.

I am a perfectionist and so mistakes are difficult for me to accept but I am also an improviser and have experienced countless times mistakes that have been redeemed or been sources of great discoveries. The trick is not to be afraid of them nor to justify them as necessary in achievement. What I mean by that is it is just another way of denying a mistake if we respond to them by saying,

It will all turn out ok in the end.


Everything happens for a reason. If I hadn’t made that mistake this great thing wouldn’t have happened.

Mistakes are still mistakes and can cause damage and hurt; yes, they can be fixed and redeemed but that doesn’t excuse the mistake. The balance must be found where you admit and acknowledge the mistake and name it as wrong but not to see it as a definite ending.


I find if you are quick to admit then people a more swift to forgive. My Mum taught me nip the mistake in the bud and it won’t flower into a deeper pain later. There is great truth in that.

In community the hardest thing to discover is how you, as a family, respond to mistakes. It is not ok to have low expectations of one another, we must always be seeking to do our best, but when someone slips up how a community treats that person is important. The onus, however, is on the person who made the mistake to grant a quick opportunity for everyone else to move on and forgive. If one leaves it un-acknowledged, the community cannot grant pardon and help the other to feel cleansed.

In modern day monasteries the practice is a beating on of the chest when a mistake is made and, if you are alone when it was done, then a sharing of it in public is done. This practice creates a right attitude to mistakes where it is seen as folly and can quickly be addressed before it grows to big and complicated and serious.

Loving God, we are sorry for the many mistakes we make on our walk of faith. May we keep short account with you and be open to your correction and tender grace to transform us each day. We thank you for your all powerful redemption and your faithfulness even to death to renew us and bring us to the resurrection to eternal life.

Come, Lord Jesus.

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