Wednesday, March 08, 2006


Today, Seabury's rota for spring quarter preachers, presiders, and deacons came out.

I am on it.

This terrifies me.

Now, I should confess here that I did voluntarily submit the form that says "yes, sure, I'm willing to preach next quarter." So it's not a total shock. I turned the form in knowing that I'm terrified to preach at Seabury, and somewhat doubtful of whether now was the right time. But after consulting with various friends and mentors, it does seem like the terror will only grow by putting it off.

Also, the terror is somewhat mitigated by the fact that I'm assigned to preach at a Thursday night Eucharist, which is less formal and not in the chapel, and which has significantly lower faculty attendance than most masses here, with our chaplain (an extraordinarily gentle man) presiding and a good friend as deacon. Also I'm fairly sure I can be seen from behind the lectern in Seabury Lounge. (Somehow the fact that I read from the chapel pulpit all the time doesn't reassure me that I can be seen preaching from it.) And it's not until the beginning of May, and it's for the feast of a fairly minor saint, not for Annunciation or something. This all helps.

It does not, however, mean I'm not still terrified.


Baruch Grazer said...

I'm always grateful that the Preaching Rota Master invariably shunts me 'way, 'way off near the end of the term. I imagine her in her office murmuring benevolently, "This guy- this is a guy who needs some time."

Beth said...

She does seem to be a benevolent rota master, yes.

Pastoral Team said...

Preach! Preach!

You will stand on the Word of God and be, I am not referring to the idea of using the pulpit bible as a booster of some kind.

You rock.

micah said...

Ah, Beth... You will be fine, and your sermon will be well-received. I base this conclusion on several facts I know about you.

1) It is unlikely that you will take this opportunity to "tell them all what you really think of them." Scolding a captive congregation is abusive, and you are not abusive.

2) Rather, you will use your preaching opportunity to say something theologically correct, pastorally sensitive, and factually accurate. Achieving only these three goals will set you head and shoulders above most other preachers on the earth.

*) Speaking of your head and shoulders. The lectern for Thursday Nights is easier to preach at than the Chapel's pulpit because it is smaller. However, never be afraid to do what it takes to be seen. Stand on a block, or use an adjustible music stand, or whatever. (And don't forget, the pulpit in the Chapel actually does go up and down a bit. As the preacher, its height is your choice.) Interestingly, if you are concerned about being seen, do not preach from the aisle on the same level as your congregation. That will actually be harder for them to see. Rather, the height of the pulpit will be your friend (or the height of the chancel steps).

3) Though you may have a moment or two of levity in your sermon, you are not likely to begin with a joke, or have your sermon's principal purpose to entertain.

Therefore, your sermon will be great, and everyone will get an opportunity to encounter God in the moment (the real reason we put ourselves through all this). <--Micah.

PS - All this and more is discussed in my forthcoming (2010) book "Nobody Wants to See Your WENUS and 49 Other Rules of Great Preaching." You'll be an experienced preacher by the time it comes out, sorry, but I hope it'll help somebody.

Reverend Ref + said...

And, hey, you can always use my mantra: "At least I'm not officiating at Evensong!"

Beth said...

Nope - officiating at Evensong is one of the very most comfortable liturgical roles for me. I'd rather officiate evensong than be an oblation bearer any day, comfort-wise.