The sermon: short and sweet

Yesterday I had the local 1st year class from the local secondary school in for a romp around the church. Their teacher gives them a worksheet where they have to draw holy symbols, find the font etc, and name the saints in the windows.  The eagle lectern is referred to as ‘that big burrd’. After they have finished I get the chance to tell them what goes on each Sunday in Christ Church. We all dress up for that bit.

So one little girl had begged to be the priest and we always like to encourage women in this church so she got to wear the green stole and chasuble and went around making a sort of popish blessing on everyone. It is funny what kids think we do. The wee server carried the processional cross like a bayonet and the ‘choir’ had to process lickety-splick behind him as he charged down the aisle. When we got to the sermon our priest climbed up the steps to the pulpit, nearly breaking her neck on the chasuble as she did so (don’t read this Health and Safety Officer) and stood there waving her arms about. We discussed what a sermon might be like: explaining the hard bits in the bible, telling us how to live today in the light of the gospel etc.

“So come on then,” I said, “give us a sermon.”

Long embarrassed pause.

“Come on, what do you think I might say to encourage people?”

Another pause.  Then…

“Eat your greens!”

I couldn’t have put it better myself.

Confirmation Classes, past and present

When I first started going to St Michael & All Saints in about 1985 I was very quickly asked if I’d like to go to Confirmation Classes. I really had no idea what they were, but as I was embracing the whole SEC thing, it seemed like a good idea. I had to get my mum to babysit and I’m not sure that she really believed I was going to a church meeting that ended up in the pub. For Fr Emsley was a priest who did his best mission in the Auld Toll Bar in Tollcross over a pint of frothing ale. That part of the evening, I have to say, was much more exciting that the previous class.

I remember there were about 6-8 of us in that class ranging in age from 14-50ish. And I spent most of them hoping that Fr E wouldn’t catch my eye and ask a question. Having no church background or Sunday School memories, I really knew nothing about the bible, the prayer book or the church. Nor was I brave enough to ask in case folk thought I was stupid. It seems ridiculous now. Now I have no qualms whatsoever about asking anything at all. The confirmation classes were long and boring and dry. There was a lot of history, something about miracles in the bible, and then something about the Scottish Prayer Book. I was just glad when it was all over and I realised there was not going to be a test at the end of it.

Yesterday, as I sat with four eager teenagers, I remembered those days and smiled. It is so very different today. Our topic yesterday was the Bible and my plan was to gently introduce them to the notion that some of it might be myth, some might be ‘of its time’ and the importance of contextual study but they were way ahead of me.  We hadn’t got past the Pentateuch when they were telling me how some rules in Leviticus are not obeyed now, so why should the RC church get so het up about equal marriage?  We did ponder sex before marriage and whether that constituted ‘sin’ or not, before somehow moving on to circumcision and why it was sensible in hot countries and how shocking female circumcision was today.

Please let me tell you that I didn’t bring up any of these subjects. They just came up naturally in the conversation and were issues that they wanted to explore in a Christian setting. This group accepted a God of all faiths very easily, and loved the fact that they were Episcopal which meant that they were much more accepting of others than many churches. They like being liberal and catholic.

It really was the most glorious hour I’ve spent in a long time and filled me with hope. Bless them.

We’re doing prayer next week and I can’t wait.

The future’s looking good

Had a meeting last night with some of our young people who are about to be confirmed on the Feast of St Mark. It was a bit like being on Mastermind with four teenagers firing questions at me, talking over one another, and in the midst of it all sharing some of their own thoughts and answers. It fair did my head in. But you know, I was feeling pretty rough before I went (toothache btw) and they certainly took my mind off that.  In between it all were references to Glenalmond (the Province’s annual youth camp) where they all feel safe and loved and one of them reckons there is no religion at all!  When you only have a few teenagers in your church it is good that there is somewhere they can go to meet others and tune into an established network throughout the year. I take my hat off to the youth leaders who sit up all night listening to all that angst. We owe you! Big time.

But I reckon the future of our church is in good hands.  And thanks to Glenalmond for nurturing it when we forget.

No good if you’re on the Atkins Diet

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?