Hold on while I just rescue a Smudgelet from a kitchen disaster involving tuna chunks.
Now, some of you were kind enough to enquire about last night and my first ever venture into the pulpit. Well, actually, I’ve been in the pulpit loads of times before, but never to do a sermon. As a worship leader in my own church I have been landed several times with leading worship (amazing – it does what it says on the tin!) but we’re not actually allowed to do a sermon. I felt sort of naughty, actually, just three units into the training course and feeling no different than I did three months ago, standing there in front of this congregation of mainly local preachers and pontificating. Not that I did pontificate, I hope, but you know what I mean.
I had a nice quiet prayer time of my own before we set out, standing in the sunshine at the end of my road for ten minutes until my lift arrived. Not that she arrived late, or that she’d insisted I walk half way to meet her, but I decided that it was probably a better preparation to have a little walk in the sunshine than to strangle my father 😉
The church is a huge one but the evening congregation small. It was strange, actually, as I had attended this church for about six months fourteen years ago – I used to drive my housemate to her swimming training session in the pool in that town and went to that church while I waited to bring her home as she hadn’t got a car. It never really felt like my church, though, for some strange reason, despite being really welcoming and friendly. Nobody there particularly recognised me…. which is probably just as well. We’d been told to prepare for a congregation of four but there were ten there, which was quite a nice number as they all sat together in the choir seats and turned the lectern round to face them.
My mentor, B, did the first part of the service then handed over to me to do a drama (well recieved and fun to do) and the reading and the sermon. I noticed during the drama that one elderly gentleman was struggling to hear – a nightmare really as I knew my voice was loud enough to carry and if I raised it, the huge church with so few people in it was terribly echoey. Fortunately during the sermon he dropped off to sleep. I don’t think, in theory, you’re supposed to feel relieved when one tenth of the congregation fall asleep during your words of wisdom.
I felt comfortable and increasingly at ease as I spoke. As I went on, more people began to smile and nod in agreement or empathy at things I said and laughed with me as I told them about my Smudgelet bringing home a near-dead specimen of a sunflower in a yogurt pot and expecting it to grow, and God working a miracle and raising it to a good seven foot high tower with a head the size of a dinner plate. For all that, I went quite shaky afterwards (although apparently nobody could tell) and I started to wish I’d had time for something to eat before I went.
The congregation were lovely with their comments, mentioning that I’d used plenty of eye contact – I bit back the comment that that’s not difficult when your congregation is sitting in two rows of five! – and a good use of voice. They said I appeared not to be nervous (if only they’d known that fourteen years of teaching makes you well practised at hiding your terror!) and two people were flattering enough to comment to my mentor that she had a natural preacher as her protegee, which was rather nice to hear. Mustn’t let that go to my head! My mentor gave me lots of opportunity to reflect on how I felt it had gone and what I would have done differently, though she didn’t actually comment on what she thought of it – maybe because she’d already approved the content and she knew I knew I was OK on the delivery overall.
I’m very nervous about the next one, though. A country church, very set in their ways, with a congregation of about four. My minister is the superintendant for our circuit and he has a policy that every trainee local preacher has to preach at this particular church at some point in their training. My wonderful friend M planned me there for my second trip out simply a) to get it over with and b) to do it while I was only responsible for part of the service, not for the whole thing. I now have a fortnight to prepare and decide how much of the service I want to take responsibility for. AAAAAAGGGGGGGGGHHHHH! I suggested that, as they haven’t an organist, I’d take responsibility for the music and B could do the rest. Somehow she wasn’t having that!
Still, forget it for today. The Smudgelet and I are off to brave the Bank Holiday crowds at Alum Bay, to make sand shapes, to ride on the “Little Drivers” track and generally have a bit of fun before I collect my tired and smokey Sprout from Sprout camp.