Blimey! How many more weeks of preaching on bread can one cope with? I don’t think there is any property of bread that has not been considered. Today I was even reduced to telling a story about MASH and a dying man smelling bread. That’s how hard it has been to find ‘bread’ things to say.
Nice to have a front row of the great white hope of the SEC today. Many of the young people who have been working their socks off at Glenalmond all turned up this morning. A tad late but who’s counting! As I looked down upon those fresh faces I pondered what roles they might have in the future of our beloved Church. Will they be the movers and shakers? The committed Synod members? The rebels in the naughty corner? Will any be ordained? Will there be such a thing as ordained ministry? Will they have left, disillusioned and frustrated? They certainly made me think. I also wondered what they were thinking about our style of worship at St Mark’s. Did it inspire and energise them? Hmm. I suspect it was a tad trad. Perhaps we should do feedback sheets like the Mystery Worshipper when we have visitors.
What questions would you ask of a visitor to see if they’d enjoyed church?
Today is Trinity Sunday, the day when most clergy will try to avoid preaching and invite someone else to wrestle with it instead. Of course, I ended up preaching three times! Very trinitarian. Twice at St Mark’s of course, and then this afternoon at The Robin Chapel.
The Robin Chapel is a little gem set within the rather seedy part of Edinburgh known as Craigmillar. It is dedicated to Robin Tudsbery, son of Sir Francis and Lady Tudsbery. It was built in 1950 at the centre of a unique housing complext for physically disabled people and their families – The Thistle Foundation. Robin was their only son, a lieutenant in the Royal Horse Guards, who was killed in Germany in the last days of WW2. His parents sought to commemorate their beloved son and also to further the spirit of unity and concord among Christian people.
Services (Evensong and monthly Communion) are held on Sunday afternoons and are ecumenical, although the Chaplain is a Piskie. There is a paid choir who are excellent and I think I have found a refuge for future Sunday afternoons.
It is worth popping in, if you ever get the chance. I hear it does a roaring trade on Doors Open Day. And instead of a painting of the Ascension, or even the Trinity, you can see a portrait of Robin as a boy with his dog. Strange. Gorgeous windows though.
“When I first began preaching, I wanted each sermon to be a powerful and transformative experience. I wanted it to be exegetically and theologically sound, even while it was painting new pictures and inspiring new metaphors. I wanted people’s lives to be changed and the reign of God to come. Now, after almost 20 years of ministry, I just want to have it done by Friday.”
Bradley Schmeling in Christian Century magazine
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.
Today I had an assistant for my sermon. As it was Family Service day and our Teddy Bear’s Picnic at church, I took along Pius Puffin and Sooty to help me with my preaching. Sooty actually did the sermon with a little bit of translating from me (he was very shy and would only whisper in my ear – when I remembered). I found that he was very good at nodding his head ‘yes’ but not so hot at shaking his head ‘no’. There’s a moral there somewhere. (And I take my hat off to Matthew Corbett. It is not as easy as it looks.)
At St C’s we had about 14 children which is a lot for us and it was great. Noisy in times but very lively and many teddies were in evidence. There was even a purple one but it was hard not to show favouritism. One of the grannies had a spotty leopard teddy which had been given by her grandson when her husband went into hospital to give her someone to cuddle in bed at night. Most of them came to the altar rail at communion for a blessing. And there was me worrying about praying for Georgia’s goldfish who had died yesterday.