Preaching into the void

Sometimes, and oftentimes, clergy feel as if they are preaching into a void. We slave over the commentaries, we meditate and pray into the wee small hours of the night, we copy and paste and delete until we think we have found the right words to speak to our little flocks. Sometimes, we even have to muster the courage of a lion to actually preach it when we think it may offend/startle/alienate said little flock. Often we are really preaching to ourselves but hope that something may resonate with someone ‘out there’ too. And occasionally we are aware of a situation which we think might benefit from being brought into the light, without naming names of course.

So we stand there in the limelight and share our intimate words and thoughts and prayers. We look over their heads, preaching to the back of the room as we have been told to do so that our voices project. But occasionally we steal a look at their upturned faces and hope to find some kind of connection – some kind of recognition that what you are saying is being heard deep down.

Then it’s all over and you move into the Creed and then the intercessions and finally the Eucharist. And you wonder if they are still thinking about your words or if they have been cast aside to be dwelt on later, or never because they didn’t connect at all. Then when they approach the altar rail with hands outstretched to receive the Body and Blood of Christ you look into their eyes to see if there is a flicker of “Yes, I heard you and I am bringing it here now.” Sometimes you see it and sometimes you don’t. It’s hard to read minds.

And when the service is all over and the sound of chattering over coffee fills the church you are left wondering if it ever happened at all. Did it work? Did it offend? Did that sermon mean anything at all or have you got it completely wrong and misjudged where they are at all? And all those questions hover in the air mingling with the coffee smells unanswered. And next week you go through it all again.

But sometimes, just sometimes, once in a blue moon, you get an email from someone who did get it and it helped. And you heave a great sigh because if only one person was helped then it was all worth it.

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