Friday, December 10, 2004

Yesterday I drove in the downpour to another Presbytery to teach a group of women about Hannah. You remember Hannah: the barren woman who went to the tabernacle to weep and beseech God about her infertility and was there chastised by the priest Eli. He thought she was drunk. Hannah's prayer is answered and later she brings back her three year old son, Samuel to Eli to serve the Lord.
As I've mentioned before, I love to study the scriptures. I like the challenge of working with a text. I don't know if I have any skill but I enjoy the work. I read a variety of things about Hannah, did some work with a Psalm, referred back to Miriam's Song then re-read the "Magnificat." After the research I began to consider how to frame my remarks for an audience of women whom I did not know. Never met the woman who invited me to speak.
I knew, because it was a Presbyterian group, that the majority of women would be over 50. I was correct. I was happy to see that about 10% of the audience were younger women. I worry that our congregations are not reaching out to younger people.
My invitation was to speak for 20-30 minutes. This time frame is longer than my usual sermon time so more writing time was required. I may use a portion of this talk for my sermon Sunday but I have to consider if I can preach it with enough freshness. My attention span is on the next sermon, not re-hashing "old" work.
I was a tad daunted by the 20-30 minutes as that is a long time to sit and listen to a speaker. The program had me speak before lunch was served which was a good thing. God has a special place in heaven for speakers who come after their audience has had a big meal. By the time the dessert plates are cleared, no one's ears work very well.
During my talk, the wait staff decided to fill water and ice tea glasses. This is the South where we have iced tea for every meal except breakfast when we have coffee. The wait staff made so much noise that I started staring at one wait person while I was speaking. I couldn't believe how much of an interruption this person was making not 8 feet from my face at the podium. She was as quiet and unubtrusive as an elephant in the room.
Remember though, I've been doing this for years so I can handle howling babies, audience coughing fits, chairs scraping, snoring and people clipping their fingernails during the sermon. (Note to God: please do something mean to people who clip their finger nails during the sermon please. I'm not talking about a big smite, I just suggest something unpleasant.) I plowed on and moved away from the podium so the audience could see me as the waitstaff was right in front of me.
Regardless, I was surrounded after the talk by people who wanted to thank me, ask me for a copy of my talk (are you kidding? my note pile and papers are indeciperable to anyone but St. Casserole) and those who just wanted to give me compliments.
Since you don't know me, I can tell you that it was wonderful to receive affirmation. Preachers don't get much feedback about our work. Some crabby comments sure, but not much about how we are doing.
If you have a preacher or go to listen to a speaker, would you please give a compliment if the person deserves it? And, if you do give a compliment, will you be specific (interesting material, accessible presentation, clear speech, whatever)? On behalf of preachers and speakers everywhere, thank you.

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