Sunday, 23 October 2011

aaaaagggggghhhhhhh, the sermon.

The sermon. 

Long, short, boring or riveting, at some point in an Anglican service the priest is expected to stand up and spout. As an exercise in balancing bible with current events; doctrine with experience, it's pretty challenging. Cardinal sins: too much personal information/too little personal information; too much enthusiasm/too little enthusiasm; for a mother - talking about your children too much, especially if they are unfortunate enough to be in the congregation. Evangelicals like 'em long; middle of the road-ers are happy with 10 minutes; Catholically-minded brethren insist on calling them homilies (?) Increasingly I'm wondering how they sit with education theory and practice which rightly values interactive learning. Didn't Jesus do something along those lines too? I sometimes come home and imagine what would have happened if I had just stood up and asked a whole lot of awkward questions that needed debate, stirred things up a bit. After wanging on for a while and noticing that some are looking at the floor/ceiling/have head in hands (clearly responding in profound repentance so that's okay) I do wonder sometimes....and Anglicans are so polite - you never can gauge a response ('Nice sermon, thank you').
So what are people expecting from a sermon? (Thoughts welcome) and what is the general point of it? (Thoughts welcome) And as for the pulpit - in this egalitarian, de-constructing, post-modern era, is it not a totally anachronistic piece of church architecture? Or am I just stirring things up a bit?


  1. What a thought-provoking blog you're producing Claire. I share your frustrations about sermons - I have a total of about 3 main messages that I churn out periodically in sermons, dressed up differently, but essentially the same thing! Sometimes in my church we abandon the sermon & have a discussion instead, which people really enjoy (I wonder why?!). It's great to learn from their stories - everyone has something to say about their experience of faith - if this is the priesthood of all believers, why should it always be the professional priest who talks anyway?
    As for what people want out of a sermon - my husband (who is not very churchy) says that he simply likes a sermon to challenge him & make him think. No pressure.
    If you have any brilliant ideas for impending Remembrance Sunday sermon, do let me know!

  2. Thanks Imogen, how encouraging.
    Remembrance kind of needs a blog all to itself so I might think about this for Sunday evening's attempt. I went away to try and think about Remembrance as I thought it would be difficult for me...does one preach on the gospel and weave in Remembrance, or preach on Remembrance and weave in the gospel, or is there a third way....?! good luck and watch this space!!

  3. As one usually on the receiving end of the spouting type, I am a big believer of interactive sermons! I read once a chapter written by Johnny Baker called "Throwing a handgrenade into the fruit bowl" which argued pretty comprehensively for throwing the preach out of the window. is the link. Don't think it made it into the book in the end. Maybe it was too controversial??

  4. I tend to agree and definitely if one knows the congregation but on arriving at a different church where the group is not well know this is harder! I'm lucky in that I get to mix it up usually.