Harrell Beck

The Wisdom of Harrell Beck

Brooks vs. the Village Idiot


Phillips Brooks used to say that we’re lucky if we have one sermon. After that most clergy just rearrange the texts -- and I think that’s true. My hat’s off to Phillips Brooks: he spent thirty years in one church. I have no idea how a person could do it even with Episcopalians! One Sunday Brooks did his best and a visitor in the parish said to one of the members of Trinity Church, “My, that was a great sermon by Dr. Brooks.” To which the member of the church said, “Glad you liked it! We like it every time we hear it.” The village idiot was also in church that day and sidled over to Dr. Brooks four times to tell him how lousy the sermon was. An usher, noticing Dr. Brooks was disturbed, finally went up to him and said, “Don’t pay any attention to that fellow, he just repeats what he hears other members of the congregation saying. Remember, just because you play a Sonata once, you don’t throw it away.

From “Images of Hope, The Nails” March 8, 1985