Friday, June 6, 2008

preaching without a manuscript

Due to my wrist injury I'm not able to use my right hand for typing, which made preparing a manuscript for Sunday problematic. Instead of laboring with one hand (as I am now) I decided to use the opportunity to try preaching from notes.

The congregation was very supportive and the experience went well. People remarked on the "of the moment" quality and the higher level of engagement. One person said it was even a better sermon than usual, despite this being my first attempt. I prepared way too much material and went way over time but no one seemed to care.

I'll continue to preach from notes for the next few months as my hand heals and look forward to developing a new skill. But I'm still of two minds about the practice. I miss that at the end of the sermon I haven't produced a written document that I can share or publish. I miss the beauty of language and the careful progression of an argument that I've always seen as my real talent. The no manuscript style seems to lend itself to story-telling and personal observations, which people clearly relate to and enjoy, but sermons can also be effective when they are abstract and theological. I've never had any problem preaching in a manner which is lively and engaging even though I'm reading a text.

Perhaps because both seem to have their appropriate use the positive outcome of this experience is that I'll be able to choose one or the other depending on what I'm hoping to accomplish in that week's sermon.

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