Courtesy of my colleague Brian Thomas my attention has been drawn to this old but everlasting advice re preaching, republished recently in the Guardian (UK):
"Sunk in their deep armchairs, 36 Anglican clergymen were told here today about the "weary Willies" of the pulpit by the Rev. D. W. Cleverley Ford, director of the Church of England's first college of preaching, which opened here today at Scargill House, the Anglican conference centre.
Mr Ford, who was listing his "tools of the trade" for the preacher, said a congregation first considered what the preacher was, secondly how he said it, and thirdly what he said.
A preacher was his own visual aid or hindrance. "His clothes, his hands, his hair, his beard or absence of beard, his robes ? all these are important. A man who starts preparing his sermon at 10 p.m. on Saturday and finishes it at 2 a.m. on Sunday might arrive in the pulpit looking like a weary Willie. What kind of advertisement is he for the Christian faith? Many members of our congregation are women; they see people rather differently from us. They notice that a preacher has a clean collar, or that he is wearing one that might be cleaner. They spend the rest of the sermon wondering about things that need cleaning at home."
Still talking of the "weary Willies," Mr Ford said: "At some of the sermons I have heard, I would like to throw a hymn-book at the preacher and shout 'Wake up, man!'"
There had been a decline in the amount and quality of preaching. In the Church of England, preaching could not be divorced from the pastoral office.
"Don't preach at Mrs Smith who has lost her husband," he said. "But knowing her need, and near that particular time, you could take the subject of life after death, or peace of mind." Such things should be brought in as a point in the sermon.
His other "tools of the trade" for the preacher were knowledge of the Bible ("all great preachers have been great Bible students"); theology: illustrative material ("you collect this from life"); and the use of the voice.
"Realise the difficulty of your task," he said. "It is quite wrong to imagine that most people in church are dying to listen to us." The best preachers, he thought, were those who knew what it was like to be flattened, to be hit by life: "It is disappointments, hardships, and suffering that make the man: a moved man who can move people."
From one of the deep armchairs came a question that was almost a heart cry: "All you have said presupposes a congregation?"
Mr Ford said he knew what it was like to preach to an almost empty church and to feel "all this for so few". "But we must not surrender," he said. "The increase will surely come." "
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