Sunday, July 22, 2007



I've been preaching for many years. I know more about preaching than I did ten years ago, but I still find the entire process of sermon preparation, exegesis, writing, revisions and delivery mysterious.

There are some Sundays where I am fully with my listeners. They follow my voice so throughly that I am not sure that they breathe. I would never say this about myself if I didn't have many Sundays where I think I have wasted their time and mine by even attempting to proclaim and witness to God's Good News through a sermon.

I moved from a full manuscript in the pulpit to a detailed outline to a shorter outline and then on to five words on a note card before me.

At the past two Festival of Homies, I've noticed that the Big Name Preachers appear to use a full manuscript as they preach.

Considering this a discipline I might want to re-visit, I've preached from a full manuscript last week and today.

I felt constrained. I felt that I was falling for that hubris of loving my own words so much that I had to repeat what I've written rather than respond to the movement of the congregation.

I will use a full manuscript for the next two Sundays to see what I think about this process.

It would help if the congregation gave me any feedback at all about the last two sermons. They didn't say anything about the delivery but, as they graciously do, either asked more about a certain point or commented on an illustration.

I'm going to the Young Clergy Woman's Conference next month at the College of Preachers in Washington, D.C. I will keep my ears open for how I may evaluate my sermons to improve as a preacher. I'm reading Anna Carter Florence's new book, too, in preparation.

Despite the frustration of never feeling that I am a good enough preacher, I do like the mystery of preaching itself. One never seems to master it. There is no perfection or ending of one's abilities to talk about God through a sermon. I like this.

Looking at the picture of me illustrating this post, do you think I need a haircut?

Peace to You,

St. Casserole

P.S. If any of you wisegals make a crack about my attendance at a Young Clergy Women's Event, I'll.... well, I'll... OH RATS JUST DON'T MENTION IT TO ME, OK?

14 comments:

Songbird said...

I'm still in the glued to the manuscript phase, although somehow knowing it's there does allow me to speak freely, too. I do all sorts of other things without a "script," but I really resist risking, since that's what it feels like to me, going without the papers. Maybe that's intoxication with my own words, and maybe it's just cowardice, and maybe it's just I'm not there yet. Don't know. Wish I could hear you preach.

Sue said...

I would dearly love to hear you preach - you too Songbird! - maybe someday.

I use a manuscript. I print a copy and give it to a gentleman in the congregation who is deaf. He appreciates following along, and always knows when I've gone off-script, which I do often.

I like having notes in front of me even if I don't adhere to the words exactly.

On the other hand, when I do liturgical monologues I use no notes and base the sermon entirely on the character I am portraying and speaking through.

I think whatever form gets the message across is the right one - for some that means notes, for others, not so much. I don't think that one form is necessarily better than the other.

Alex said...

Oh, I am looking forward to meeting you at the YCW conference!

PPB said...

I think your hair looks fine, but that dress--it could use a belt, or perhaps some darts.

I'm a manuscript chick myself, although I have a habbit of scratching phrases out of my sermon during the reading of the scripture. Yup, never quite done editing.

I've preached without manuscript, but I'm not very good that way. So i stick with what I know. But I'm really trying to learn how to do the pastoral prayer without a manuscript.

I heard that all the hot chicks are going to the young clergywomen's conference. I demand pictures.

PPB said...

And apparently habbit is a new word that I just invented. It's a habit by those about the same size as hobbits?

annie said...

St Casserole, I am from a rather old-timey denomination, so you are about the first female preacher I have gotten to know, and that only through the internet. And I have seen a few others of your kind in blogland. It's been very interesting and I think it would be such a treat to show up sometime and hear you preach.

ElastiGirl said...

St. C - I think you are very young and fun!! You will rock the conference with your lovely spirit -

Teri said...

ooh ooh!! I am going to that conference too!

for the record, Anna Carter Florence uses a crazy manuscript. But her colleague Chuck at columbia is a no-manuscript type. They are both incredible teachers and preachers.

I'm so excited to meet you in DC!!!

Purechristianithink said...

I can go both ways: manuscript or outline. However, I've never been able to shake the guilt feeling that "notes" is the lesser path. This may be because my first experiences dispensing with a full manuscript came when I had an infant and a toddler and was trying to do sermon-writing during nap-times and often came to Saturday night having only managed to pull together a rough trajectory of semi-organized thougts. Also, I'm in a congregation now that wants COPIES to set out on the little literature rack in the narthex and get put out with me when I explain that there is no manuscript to copy.

cheesehead said...

You're my hero. Can I be you when I grow up?

Quotidian Grace said...

About that hair...it looks way too anabaptist for a good presby like you.

And the dress is dullsville. How about a nice Von Furstenburg wrap?

On a serious note--at my church the pastors preach without notes. Their outline is published in the bulletin with spaces for the congregation to take notes if they choose. Then the sermon, as delivered, is uploaded as a podcast to the website. I think they've got it covered!

Presbyterian Gal said...

My church does it exactly like QG's. But then we're both Presbyterians in large urban churches. Don't know if that has something to do with it. Just seems that way.

I'd say that, if you're not going to go with a manuscript and just use an outline, then a course of improv workshops is in order to strenghten the 'thinking on your feet' skills. And I just happen to know someone who could do that!!! Ahem, ahem.

Hot Cup Lutheran said...

oh heck yeah you're young...

if it helps I talk aloud the sermon & type word for work to my own 'dictation'... so that what is "written" is actually that which will be spoken because there's a huge difference... it might look kinda funny on paper but SOUNDS right. whew...

PPB said...

I actually read recently that a lot of pastors are doing the podcast thing (and some are saying they don't type a manuscript, even when they do--and others really aren't manuscript preachers), in order to not give our their manuscripts. This is due to not wanting their manuscripts "stolen" by other pastors on the web, and not wanting to listen to 10 members each week who want to correct their punctuation.

Where did I see that?
Anyway, kudos for you for being able to do it both ways. All my unscripted sermons have been utter, utter failures, so I'm sticking with what I know, but I wish I had your flexibility, Miss Gumby.