Sunday, March 27, 2011

It is not what you say but how you say it that is remembered

If the title of the post is true about conversational speech it is not necessarily true about preaching. People do remember some things we say in sermons. Content matters, keep working on it! But how we say things does matter. Cheerfulness, good humour, a smile will be remembered .. as will a judgmental tone, shouting, negativity towards others, sarcasm and the like.

How do we want to be remembered as preachers?

Friday, March 18, 2011

Thinking about the National Memorial Service today

It's a big thing to organise a service such as we had in Christchurch today. I imagine that the organisers (whom I know included Dean Peter Beck and Bishop Victoria Matthews but others the number, experience and Christian commitment of whom I have no idea) had quite a lot to discuss because there were quite a few parts to the service.

I guess some of the music fell into place fairly easily (Amazing Grace, Pie Jesu, Whakaria Mai (How Great Thou Art), God Save the Queen, God Defend New Zealand) and once Dave Dobbyn comes ino the picture then Loyal is the song for him to sing. Sometimes our music choices are straightforward.

Likewise the speakers were straightforward (a Maori elder, the PM, Prince William, the Mayor, the Leader of the Opposition, Bishop Victoria). Ditto for us.

Trickier, I imagine, were other elements: which readings and who to read? who to pray and how many prayers? what symbolic actions and who to perform them? How to do everything to make the service complete and how to invite a range of people so all sectors of Christchurch society were represented. Sometimes we have these challenges for parish services. The bishop is coming for an annual (combined) service ... which readers and intercessors to ask representing the different congregations, generations and genders in the parish?

Something worked really well that the organisers had no control over: the weather was brilliant for an outside service. Some parishes in Christchurch are having a few outdoor services these days and the weather hasn't always been brilliant.

Final note: something I missed at the end of today's service. There was no clear and definite signal that the service had ended. In our services these days, even our most informal ones, 'the Dismissal' is said. Not only do we leave the service with great words, we know the service has ended!

Monday, March 7, 2011

Quick reflection on worship amidst tragedy

Just one thought re worshipping in the midst of tragedy - since the 22nd February 2011 earthquake here in Christchurch, NZ ... stick to the book.

We are all well meaning, and we want to do the very best we can with helpful words and caring made up prayers and so on. But it is so hard to get words right. My experience is not your experience. My intense conviction that God did not send the earthquake may not be your intense conviction (not because you believe God sends earthquakes punitively or maliciously, but because you believe God is in charge of everything and so earthquake (somehow) fit in with God's purposes).

So it has struck me that if we can bear to gather to worship together in the midst of tragedy then the simplest words to use might be the familiar words of liturgy. Such words are not specifically designed to meet us in our hour of tragic need so they are not condemned if they do not directly help us. Being familiar, such words do not require much listening effort on our part. They can wash over us and seep inside us.

We can take time to think about what to say as our wise contribution to talking about these grave matters. A month or a year from now might be the best time to speak. In the meantime, stick to the book!