Monday, December 2, 2019

Preaching and Worship

Eric’s sermons are well constructed, ...[and] he worked well with the [Worship Arts] Team who helps put together all of our services.

Jack Jackson - Olympia UU Congregation

In congregational communities, the central venue for offering ministries of many kinds is the pulpit. The sermon is the most in depth element of the worship service in that the themes, the values being lifted up for us are explored in greatest detail through that sermon. Yet the sermon cannot be reduced to mere text. In my own preaching, I often find my delivery of the sermon is most effective when I step away from the pulpit and can walk around, at least for portions of the sermon, incorporating movement in delivering the message. 
In the pandemic era of virtual and multi-platform worship, opportunities for movement have been lessened. A return to a less stationary approach to worship is one of the many hopes I have for 2022. That said, I am convinced thee move to multi-platform worship has been good for congregational outreach. And in my preaching, one other change has emerged: I now regularly break the sermon into smaller sections, better suited to engaging via video.

Preaching at installation of Music Minister, William Ross
First UU Church, San Antonio, TX, September 2006

My sermon topics vary widely. I believe in drawing upon many faith traditions and many spiritual and intellectual disciplines to inform my sermons, while avoiding the trap of cultural misappropriation. I have experience with theme-based ministry, and have preached on a “theme of the month” at three previous churches. 
I find my emphasis, in most sermons, is more inspirational than intellectual. While I do explore "big ideas" in sermons, my general style is to draw these themes out of stories that not only illustrate these themes but also help people connect on a more visceral level. My goal in preaching a sermon is for people to leave with a little food for thought, but more so with motivation to commit to another aspect of life.

Eric helped us settle into our new ministry structure and focused his attention in worship on things we needed to think about, work on and come to terms with before calling a new minister.

Linda Selsor - Olympia UU Congregation

The Sunday morning gathering - especially the worship service - is the primary moment that guests and newcomers encounter the life of a church. “Radical hospitality” includes taking every meaningful step to make the church as welcoming as possible to guests. I always encourage lay leaders to ask themselves how our guests and newcomers will experience our worship (as well as our other ministries). Asking this question helps the work of the church to welcome others.
I feel no need to abandon completely the worship traditions that have evolved in a congregation, but some changes may be appropriate. The key questions are, what is the church’s core purpose for being, and for doing ministry? How can their worship best help them live that? Anything in a congregation’s liturgy that distracts the church from its mission and vision, should be examined carefully for alternatives.

Signing the marriage license for the first 
same-sex marriage legally recognized in 
Dauphin County, Pennsylvania
May 24, 2014

Another vital avenue for participation in worship is music. The wide involvement of multiple singers and/or instruments not only fills out the sound, but can feel more inviting. While I see great value in those churches with strong formal music programs, I have experience and interest also in exploring more contemporary forms of worship, with congregations that are open to trying new things.
(And I should add: one element of my ministry most frequently noted, by members of every church I serve, is that when the music is lively, you're gonna see me dancing and clapping along in the chancel.)

[Note: The titles link to PDFs of sermon texts, unless followed with indication that video of the worship service is online. Some sermon texts are complete, while others are intentionally incomplete sermon notes. I alternate between styles of preparing sermons, depending on which best suits the delivery of that service.]

[Note on Audio: The MP3s linked to the word "(audio)" are podcasts of the sermons. Each begins with a standard intro clip; the sermon begins between 1:50 and 1:55 on each MP3 file.]

No comments:

Post a Comment