Saturday, September 03, 2011

Preaching Styles

Back in May, David (my rector) and I were driving to San Pedro for the annual spring clergy conference for the Diocese of Los Angeles. We started talking about preaching style. As long as I have been preaching (with a couple of exceptions), I have prepared a manuscript. Then earlier this year I went through a spell of taking the manuscript and converting it into an outline and then preaching from the outline. In more recent months, I had gotten away from that approach, as it actually takes more time to prepare and I had been too busy to devote the time needed. As a result, I had slipped back into relying solely on the manuscript while preaching. In addition, I tend to get too tied to the words that I write in the manuscript process.

David commented that my delivery was better when I was going from the outline. He suggested that maybe what I need to do is not prepare a manuscript at all, but to only prepare notes or an outline. I decided to take him up on his challenge – on Trinity Sunday (June 19). I figured that would be a good test run, since I would only have to preach once (being our patronal festival, we had a combined service that day). Of course, some may question the sanity of preaching on something like the doctrine of the Trinity without a manuscript, but I did it. And I also decided that if I wasn’t going to use a manuscript, I would not really need the pulpit. So I preached from the top of the sanctuary steps.

I was, understandably, a little nervous. But amazingly, I don’t think I even looked at my notes. And I got such positive comments from parishioners. They felt I had more energy and was more engaged in preaching without the manuscript. And they really liked the feeling of me being closer and more accessible by preaching from the steps instead of from behind the pulpit. And I really liked the ability to more readily make changes on the fly, allowing for a more dynamic preaching process.

So, after a good test run, I decided that this is the way I need to preach all the time. The only problem is that I now no longer have a record of my actual sermons – nothing to be able to post on my blog. And that has primarily been the purpose of my blog. And ironically, in the last two months of preaching this way (six sermons) several times people have asked me for copies of my sermons, and I have had to tell them there is no copy.

I have been struggling with this dilemma, with that engineer in me that wants a complete record. So I have decided to check into dictation software. If I can dictate the sermon either immediately before delivering it or afterwards (probably afterwards since I will have in mind any of the more recent changes), then I could post the transcript on the blog. Of course, after I preach the sermon, I could sit down and type out the gist of it from memory, but that would take more energy and time than I usually have or am willing to expend on a Sunday afternoon. So, we will see how the transcription process works. I know the technology is not perfect and editing will still be needed. But minor edits will be far easier than typing the whole thing (and risking getting bogged down with how I should have said something as opposed to how it was really said).

We shall see. The software should arrive in the next week or so.


No comments: